Battle for Terra
Rated PG, 85 min. Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas. Voices by Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, Luke Wilson, Dennis Quaid, David Cross, Brian Cox, Amanda Peet, Chris Evans, Rosanna Arquette, James Garner, Danny Glover, Ron Perlman, Danny Trejo, Mark Hamill.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 1, 2009
Canadian animation studio Snoot Entertainment goes up against the big boys in this futuristic, CG-animated tale of a peace-loving, pseudo-religious race of tadpole-esque creatures known as the Terrians, who face imminent extinction at the hands of murderous aliens from beyond the stars: mankind. Taking a page from Battlestar Galactica (the original series) and putting a nifty spin on such peaceable Fifties sci-fi classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still (again, the original), Battle for Terra boasts impressively executed battle sequences that, frankly, are light-years beyond anything found in the recent Star Wars animated add-ons. There's none of the nattering subplot exposition that marred The Clone Wars, and in fact, Battle for Terra has more in common – philosophically, at least – with the Brad Bird-directed, Tim McCanlies-scripted The Iron Giant than it does with anything coming out of Skywalker Ranch these days. Battle for Terra’s protagonist is high-spirited tomboy (tadboy?) Mala (Wood), who, in the wake of a violent attack on her people from a “new God in the sky," rescues wounded enemy pilot Jim (Wilson). Through Cross' multilingual robot, Giddy, Mala learns that Jim and his mother ship (commanded with militaristic gusto by Cox's Gen. Hemmer) are all that remain of the human race, the planet Earth having long ago exhausted its life-sustaining resources. While the Terrian elders mount a countercampaign against the backdrop of a truly unconscionable plan by Gen. Hemmer to "terraform" the planet (and thus kill off all life on it), Jim and Mala work together to save both Terrians and humankind alike. Director Tsirbas, a former digital artist on such films as Hellboy and Kevin Smith's Dogma, works wonders on a budget that was probably equal to one day’s rendering costs on the last Disney/Pixar production, and his script, co-written with Evan Spiliotopoulos, knowingly touches on some thoroughly contemporary issues – not least among them unchecked militarism, the dangers of conformity (and religion), and the moral imperative and compassion all freethinking life forms should exhibit toward one another, regardless of whether they look like googly-eyed airborne spermatozoa or not.