a critiQal film review Battle for Terra (2009)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: When her peaceful planet is invaded by humans fleeing a civil war and environmental catastrophe, rebellious alien teen Mala (Wood) befriends a human pilot (Wilson) and discovers they aren't that different from each other - but they soon realize that only one of their races is likely to survive.

625 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 7s)
  • ...this humans-as-alien-invaders film relies on it's compelling storyline to hook viewers - the good ensemble cast and the impressive animation are just bonuses.

Despite seeing nearly a movie a week during our Summer at the Movies 2009, we still miss some films that look interesting – and the animated Battle for Terra is one of those.

Since we weren’t sure if we were going to like this new animated film – despite hearing good things about it after it’s Film Festival circuit – we had decided to wait until it hit DVD to check it out. Now that it’s arrived on DVD, however, it was at the top of our list of must-see films. So, should we have included Battle for Terra amongst our summer movies, or was it a good thing we decided to wait for the DVD?

Luke Wilson is the only instantly recognizable voice amongst the cast, and that works to Battle for Terra‘s advantage. After being inundated in an alien world, Luke’s character, Sgt. Jim Stanton is the first human to speak on-screen, and with Luke’s recognizable voice, the viewers instantly make a connection with his character. While Luke Wilson doesn’t seem to be the first person chosen for this type of role, his voice ends up actually meshing well with his animated persona on-screen.

The rest of the large ensemble cast does an equally good job of voicing their characters, from Evan Rachel Wood as the alien main lead Mala, Justin Long as her friend Sinn and Brian Cox as General Hemmer to Danny Glover as President Chen, just to name a few. Fact is, the movie is so involving and the voices blend so well with their characters, viewers won’t be spending most of their time trying to discern which famous voice they’re hearing, as is too often the case in animated films.

Despite such an impressive ensemble cast, however, Battle for Terra‘s best achievement is in it’s storyline. Rather than catering to it’s animation, the film actually makes the animation cater to the storyline instead – making viewers aware that just because a film is animated doesn’t have to mean it’s meant for kids. It’s kind of a breakthrough in animated films that seems obvious in retrospect, but this will largely go wasted on an audience that still has the “animated = kid’s movie” stereotype running through their minds (and so will skip this film without a second thought).

The plot really brings up some complex issues for viewers who have decided to tune in. Since the humans are the alien invaders in this film, it causes viewers to really take a look at how they would act under similar circumstances. This is shown point-blank during one sequence where one human must choose between saving one of the peaceful aliens – or another human. Since the aliens are so peaceful, it seems just plain wrong to slaughter them whole – but with the human race’s very survival at stake, is it the wrong choice? It’s a situation that doesn’t really have a right answer (at least, not the way the question is posed), and really gives viewers pause – when was the last time an animated film made you do that?

Of course, this would all be for naught if the animation weren’t up to par. Thankfully, Battle for Terra is as visually impressive as it’s storyline is solid, and is a feast for both the eyes and the mind.

With it’s great ensemble voice cast that blends seamlessly into their characters on-screen, a solid storyline that makes viewers think, and some impressive animation, Battle for Terra is a compelling film that just happens to be animated rather than just a good animated film.

If you think animated films are just for kids, you owe it to yourself to check out Battle for Terra and let it change your idea of the genre.

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