Battle for Terra/ dir. Aristomenis Tsirbas/ 2009
The Terrans are inhabitants of the planet Terra — a place that promotes peace and tolerance, having long ago rejected war and weapons of mass destruction. But when Terra is invaded by humans seeking a new home due to an environmental catastrophe, the planet Terra is plunged into war and chaos.
Since this movie was NOT produced by either Dreamworks or Pixar, Terra seemed to have that indie vibe to it, which appealed to me. I was hoping for an entertaining movie that focused more on the effects of war and the struggle to survive and resist as opposed to the usual “dialogue, action, conflict, action, cute characters, action, dialogue, then happy ending.” But this trailer had me a little worried and disappointed:
They should have just watermarked the word “cliche” to this trailer. If there was drinking game where you took a shot every time a cliche came up, within a minute you would be gone! BTW, in the future when I get to my short-film class, if I have the dialogue “It has begun…” in it, feel free to punch me in the face.
Despite all this, I decided to give Terra a chance and I made the trek to the movie theater. And while, yes, it was very formulaic, slow paced and a little bland, the subtle sociopolitical commentary throughout the film kept me entertained. (Hit the jump to read the rest of the review)
If want to know how trite this movie was, here you go. The story focuses on a rebellious Terran teenage girl named Mala, who questions her society’s belief system (cliche alert!). During the human invasion, Mala helps an injured pilot named Jim Stanton, and while Jim is hesistant at first to accept help from “the enemy” they eventually learn that both their societies aren’t that different at all (cliche alert!). Eventually both have to choose sides in the war. Throw in a “cutesy” robot character and the epic aerial battle at the end, and you have an instant movie.
As for the animation, I thought the characters were animated beautifully, and the world of Terra felt alive with vibrant with bright earthy tones. Too bad the world felt a little too small, and I didn’t get sense of vastness in either the planet or in space. Plus the character designs seemed much too simple, and I expected more polish in terms of the textures. The characters had a toy-like feeling to them. This is 2009, not 2000!
The best parts of Terra, were the ones that focused on the moral dilemmas involved in war. Even though the humans were savage in their invasion of Terra, it was a little understandable in terms of survival (Even though it was their fault for using up all of Earth’s resources!). And when Mala questioned why the peaceful Terrans had weapons and soldiers at the ready, it made sense that they defend their society. At one point, both societies had a martial law like rule imposed on both their societies, which questioned leaderhip on both sides of the war. So when Mala and Jim were forced to choose sides, I felt genuine confliction in both characters. This showed a real-world ugliness to war, which is something I appreciated especially in a movie geared for kids.
I have read reviews that have stated that Terra was too pretentious, brutal and thought provoking for children. You know that I say to that, give kids a little more credit. I think they’re smart enough to understand what’s going on. And if not, don’t you think this is a great way to start a dialogue about war and the environment with the younger generation.
As for ending, while the movie was drawing to a close I thought to myself, there is no way this can have a happy ending. Well, Terra proved me wrong, there WAS a happy ending (cliche alert!), and it felt WAY too contrived. So even though I was entertained, this movie left me shaking my head.
One last note on the 3D. It was alright. Still not sold on the concept yet. I guess it felt more immersive… I dunno.