Battle for Terra searches for its true audience

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
"Capt. Jim Stanton" (voiced by Luke Wilson, left), "Mala" (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, center), and "Giddy" (voiced by David Cross, right) in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's Battle for Terra.

Battle for Terra is a conundrum. It's that film that falls between age groups, resulting in a film that has no audience to call its own. Terra is a thought-provoking film that is too kiddie for adults and too uninteresting for children.

Terra is a beautifully peaceful planet inhabited by swimmy, floating alien beings that lead a semi-primitive lifestyle. They have flying machines, but are also at one with nature. Kind of like a hippy commune. All is well in their world until one day something moves in front of their sun, which some Terrian's believe to be new Gods. The "Gods" come down and begin abducting Terrians, one of which is Rove (Dennis Quaid).

His daughter Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) senses something is askew and outwits one of the spaceships, which crashing with pilot Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson) at the helm. With his oxygen unit compromised, Mala constructs an oxygen chamber with the help of Stanton's robot Giddy (David Cross).

After realizing that the Terrians are a peaceful race, Stanton agrees to help Mala find her father, but the humans aboard the main ship are running out of time. They have come to Terra following the destruction of their planet for one reason and one reason alone -- to inhabit the planet.

General Hemmer (Brian Cox), tired of the slow pace of the politics, seizes control and sets in motion the unit that will provide life for the humans, but decimate the peaceful Terrians. The future of the Terrian race lies in the hands not of one of their own. And you guessed it -- they lived happily ever after.

Terra is a very interesting story line. It's a cautionary tale for all of us who over consume and put the very place we live in jeopardy. Its only difficulty was trying to water it down enough that it is enjoyable by children but still have the wallop that makes the viewer stand up and take notice. Unfortunately, the diluting of the story is what cripples it for both audiences.

Most of the main players are more than adequate in their roles. Wood, Cox, James Garner and Justin Long are solid, but the casting of Wilson felt off. Wilson is a fine enough actor, but the story needed an actor whose vocal range could take us on an emotional journey and Wilson doesn't achieve it. He always seems just on the brink of busting loose, but is content staying on a short leash.

Visually the film looks great. There are moments where it looks as if the filmmakers took a shortcut here and there, but the overall look of the flick is nice. Some elements are extremely predictable and that also causes one to furrow their brow.

As far as DVD goodies, looks are deceiving. There's a "Making of Battle for Terra" which is little more than the director talking and a few behind the scenes moments and runs a whopping five minutes. There's also "Aristomenis Tsirbas: Pulling the Strings" featurette which is basically an animated version of the director speaking about why he makes films and sings the praises of his crew for two minutes.

Other goodies included that are worth a watch are "From Storyboard to Final Render", "Animatics: Mala's Escape", deleted scenes and filmmaker's commentary.

Final Cut: Terra is a thought provoking film whose story needed to be told, but certain miscues in its execution cause it to feel heavy and not very digestible.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Battle for Terra

Starring: Luke Wilson, Evan Rachel Wood, James Garner, Brian Cox, Dennis Quaid

Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas

Writer: Aristomenis Tsirbas, Evan Spiliotopoulos

MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements

Available now from Lionsgate Entertainment