July 16, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Battle for Terra

Title: Battle for Terra
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Justin Long, and Brian Cox
Written by:
Released: Snoot Entertainment/Menithings Productions (2009)
Genre: Animated; Sci-Fi

I remember when Avatar was at its most hyped last winter, and the groundswell of anti-Cameron sentiment that poured from everyone. Even I voiced some dissent towards Cameron's alleged awesomeness. But I avoided calling the guy a plagiarist, even though there's documented evidence that the guy likes to "borrow" from authors to adapt to his own work. When it came to the sci-fi spectacle Avatar, critics compared it to some animated film called Battle for Terra--as well as Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, and a half-dozen other movies.

Watching Battle for Terra, I can see where folks were coming from, because the basic plot is eerily similar. An alien planet of tree-hugging indigenous creatures is invaded by an armada of humans that seek to exploit the planet's natural resources, and only a single human and his relationship with a female alien can save the day. Does that sound like Avatar to you? Well, it's also Battle for Terra to a T. The key differences between the two films are: Avatar has the weaker cast; and Battle for Terra has the weaker CGI, which is a shame because it's an animated film.

The aliens, known as Terrians, look remarkably like E.T. from the waist up, while below the waist they're a cross between a mermaid and a slug. They fly inexplicably, yet use flying machines to get around--and one even falls from a great height in one scene that left me shaking my head and saying, "but she can fly."

The humans are all that's left, as Earth was destroyed in a interplanetary war between Venus and Mars settlements, and now they have arrived at Terra in a dying ship and need to convert Terra's atmosphere to breathable air, killing nearly all life on the planet in the process. And they really don't seem to mind the moral ramifications. Humanity is plainly cast as the villain with hardly any effort to demonstrate the nuances of such an endeavor, aside from the John Smith type character (voiced by Luke Wilson).

The story is kind of disjointed for such a simple plot. One minute the aliens are living a simple life, yet we learn later on they have their own armada of ships to ward off enemies. For a cartoon, it's a bit aggrevating to sit through as a grown-up. Kids might like it, if there's nothing better to watch, but I doubt there's enough to really stand up against the juggernaut films from studios like Pixar.

It's a pretty ho-hum movie with most visual attention paid to the battle at the end, with all those ships zipping around and shooting laser beams. But as a whole, the movie feels like a bargain basement attempt at a summer blockbuster. It's the kind of movie a kid would get from his great-aunt as a Christmas gift because she saw it in the discount bin at Walmart. Just go watch Avatar, regardless of how much it may have borrowed from this and other movies--at least Avatar will be prettier to look at.

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