Battle for Terra Review
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Though it’s been making the rounds on the festival circuit ever since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007, the 3D animated sci-fi adventure is finally speeding its way into theaters. So be sure to hide your peaceful alien friends—because the humans are coming, and they’re armed to the teeth.

For as long as anyone can remember, life on the planet known as Terra has been quiet and peaceful. But then, one day, a strange object appears in the sky. Thinking that the gods have come to take them to paradise, many go out to receive their reward. But headstrong young Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) believes differently. And when her disabled father is taken by a foreign aircraft, she decides to fight back.

After causing one of the crafts to crash, Mala captures its wounded pilot—a human named Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson). With the help of Stanton’s robotic assistant, Giddy (David Cross), she saves his life and nurses him back to health. Then she asks him to help her rescue her father.

Jim wants to help Mala—but he worries that it might be too late to save her people. Since humans have destroyed Earth, their only hope for survival is to find a new home planet—and they’ve chosen Terra.

Battle for Terra is a beautifully animated film. It’s the kind of movie, in fact, that just begs for the 3D treatment—and the 3D animation is exquisitely (though not always flawlessly) done. There are battles and chases galore—and, at times, it’s so realistic that you’ll flinch as an alien aircraft (or even just a snowflake) zips by. And, as with many of this year’s 3D releases (like Coraline or Monsters vs. Aliens), there’s nothing especially gimmicky about it. Sure, things fly off the screen, but it feels natural—not contrived. So if you choose to see Battle for Terra I recommend springing a few extra bucks for the 3D version.

That said, though, I can’t say that I’d recommend taking the kids with you—at least not the younger ones. And that’s not because it’s too violent (though it is definitely violent). It’s because it’s filled with pretty heavy stuff: fathers sacrificing themselves for daughters, men having to choose between a brother and a friend, people willing to give their lives for a cause. And as someone who was traumatized after watching Old Yeller as a kid, I know how these things can affect an impressionable child.

For me, though, the most frustrating thing about Terra is its incessant preachiness. What starts out as a thrilling sci-fi adventure soon turns into yet another message about how humans are generally selfish, war-mongering, and downright evil. The humans in the film tend to be senselessly violent, ready to do war with anything that stands in their way. Oh, and did I mention that they’ve obliterated Earth (and the two closest planets)—first by destroying the environment, then by fighting over the remaining planets and blowing everything to smithereens?

Yes, I know that war is bad. I know that the environment is in serious danger. I see it on the news every day—and I’d just like to be able to sit back and enjoy a fun, animated sci-fi movie without getting beaten over the head with the same grim message. So while Battle for Terra is a beautiful film, if you’re looking for a cinematic escape, you might want to pick a fluffy chick flick instead.

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