Battle for Terra (2007) Aristomenis Tsirbas

Production Budget: between 4-8 million

Worldwide Gross: about $3 million

I was fed up talking about Avatar.  It is one of the few movies where I said all I needed to say, and I said more, and more, and more, and more.  I just kept getting into topic after topic after topic.  And the odd thing is all of them were hate topics.  It is not like say Donnie Darko where for years you saw hundreds of threads where it’s a genius movie/brilliant/best movie ever blah blah blah and someone finally stands up and goes “no, its not”.  I honestly did not hear a peep from Avatar lovers, but what I did see were endless threads of “Most overrated movie ever” or “Avatar is racist” or “Avatar is Anti American” and every other misinformed illogical interpretation of the material.  Eventually I had to just say ‘no mas’ and vow to not get into another conversation ever again.  So why the hell am I bringing it up now?  Because I got this recommended to me by people saying with a straight face “The story was done better in Battle for Terra”.  My short review for Avatar was that it had a derivative story, but amazing/revolutionary visuals and tremendous action.  While it is not anything near the greatest movie of all time, it is a visual spectacle and it overcomes its bland story.  My short joke review for this movie is if you take away all the brilliant visuals and great action, you have Battle for Terra.

Battle for Terra is about an alien planet whose inhabitants are barely animated bits of peace loving floating sperm.  Evil humans come to Terra to conquer it because they have screwed up the Earth. One of the Earth pilots crash and is taken care of by Mala (Evan Rachel Wood).  The pilot learns that maybe the aliens aren’t so bad after all and helps them fight the humans.

If I can say one thing in its defense as to why people like it so much, it is because it is one of only a few times where humans are the invaders.  Most of the time it is evil slimy aliens wanting to take over Earth but here it is the other way around.  However they screw it all up in execution by not really giving us a motivation for the humans other than they are EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL!  Our first contact with an alien race and we don’t try talking to them.  Instead the first two steps were abduction/dissection and then full blown annihilation of a species with no apparent weapons.  We seemingly missed a step somewhere.

This movie looks terrible.  I know this movie is done by an independent studio and it doesn’t have the resources of Pixar or James Cameron.  After all the director did many things to cut the budget.  The reason why the Terrans are floating sperm is because designing legs cost more (I’m dead serious) and this movie is only really 70 minutes and not a full feature length movie.  However that only cuts you so much slack.  Cut rate animation may work for you when you are doing cute woodland animals telling jokes but when you have to convey an epic world shattering war you cannot have poor animation like this.  There isn’t much definition or details to any of the designs, the action is limited to only showing a few people/ships fighting at a time, and the people themselves look like plastic dolls.  The human characters barely flap their lips when talking.

The voice acting is bland.  Even though you have stars like Danny Glover, Mark Hamill, Chris Evans, James Garner, Ron Pearlman, Luke Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Amanda Peet, and Rosanna Arquette good luck noticing them.  Only three characters get any real screen time, with the majority of other characters getting only a few lines to read.  I honestly didn’t know 90% of these stars were in this movie until I went to IMDb.  If you bet me a lot of money to guess the main actress, I would never have guessed it was Evan Rachel Wood.  So why present this long list of stars only to not use them at all?

So like I said, when you strip away the great visuals you have to focus on the story…the crappy, plot hole ridden, offensive plot.  One particularly galling scene is when we learn the Terrans suppressed technology, keeping most of the inhabitants in the dark ages, and simultaneously forcing a false religion on the masses to keep them peaceful.  This is because technology by itself is evil and religion is the only source of morality.  I’m…I’m speechless.  First you make the claim that technology which is responsible for feeding billions and extending peoples life spans several times past their normal expiration date is evil.  Then you make the asinine statement that even believing in an clearly false religion is preferable to atheism because well, then people would just want to rape, pillage and murder.  I frankly don’t know what stops me from trying to take over the world..  You know what?  It is not even worth it.  I am above this movie.

The movie also really tries to force this decision that it is either the humans or the Terrans that can win this war.  This planet is not big enough for the both races and one race must be exterminated.  This scene is highlighted when the pilot has to choose between his brother and Mala as to which one will die.  This would be really interesting if they did decide to force the issue.  If forced with the true dichotomy of either dying yourself or killing off an alien race for survival: what would you do?  But the movie chickens out when after the EEEEEEEVIL General is killed, the humans and the Terrans form a peaceful alliance and live happily ever after.  Bullshit!  You can’t present us with a moral quandary and then chicken out on making a position on it.  That’s like in Airplane when the stewardess mentions everyone had steak or fish and Leslie Nielsen said “Yes, I know.  I had lasagna.”  Of course the ultimate answer is love conquers all.  Allow me to finish projectile vomiting before commenting on how lame that is.

The movie also has several inconsistencies and plot holes that just aggravate you.  First the humans can apparently make any planet habitable by spraying oxygen in the air (really that is their brilliant terraforming plan).  Well if that is the case, are you seriously telling me Terra is the only planet you have found that can work for you?  The general also says the terraforming takes seven days and the process is irreversible.  But then the ship lands and a technician states the process will be completed in 30 minutes.  Wha huh!?  I mentioned before the Terrans kept all their technology buried away.  So we have a repeat of Battlefield Earth where a bunch of dark age primitives learn to fly spaceships in the span of 2 days and can take on trained pilots of Earth.   Again, I could go on, but you get the picture.  This is a poorly written movie.

To put the final nail in this review, the action is lame.  Because the animation is not all that great, you don’t get any epic scenes.  Most of the action in this movie are of two characters flying around, one stalls out, and the other has to catch them before hitting the ground.  Seriously, we get that scene like three times in this movie.  Even the climactic war between the Terrans and the humans is a let down.  We never get any sort of depth.  Instead we focus on only a few planes flying around instead of an air war.

It pains me that looking on IMDb many claim this to some underrated masterpiece.  It makes me come off as such an elitist snob that I want to shake them out of their inexperience with movies and show them all the movies Battle for Terra is based on and have done better.  But even without doing any of that, I can at least point out that the voice work is bland, the action is boring, the animation is poor, and the story (which is supposed to be the highlight of the movie) is at best poorly written derivative crap and at worst offensive tripe.  This isn’t an overlooked classic, it is a well deserved bomb.

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One Response to “Battle for Terra (2007) Aristomenis Tsirbas”

  1. They also dropped the ball on how terrans float around. Early in the movie you get the impression that their atmosphere is denser than Earth’s atmosphere which is why they can construct an oxygen bubble with random tarps tied to the floor so presumably the Terrans are actually floating when they ‘walk’ without legs. Except we never see earthlings swimming in the Terra atmosphere and when Malla goes to the Earth ship she can still float around effortlessly in their environment,

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