In Case You Missed It

A peaceful alien race, at one with nature.  An evil, ruthless group of humans bent on eliminating that race.  One human befriends an alien female, learning the ways of the other beings.

If one were to read that brief description, that person might instantly assume I’m referring to the latest James Cameron 3-D science fiction epic, Avatar.  Guess again.  This is actually the plot to an animated film from 2007, The Battle for Terra.(Although, it should be noted that an avid science-fiction reader would also notice the similarity to Ben Bova’s book, The Winds of Altair.)

The Battle for Terra opens with the audience meeting an alien race, the Terrans.  The Terrans lead simple lives in homes built into trees, and enjoy a happy, pleasant existence.  Then we are introduced to the Humans, who have already destroyed their own world, and have been reduced to traveling through space on an aging, dilapidated super-ship known as “The Ark”.  Their hope is to find an inhabitable planet where they can re-establish the species.  Well, they find one—Terra.  But of course, Terra is already inhabited.

The action ensues from there.  The title of the movie can pretty much fill in the rest of the plot.  The cast is littered with well known actors, featuring the voice talents of Dennis Quaid, Ron Pearlman, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Glover, James Garner, Beverly D’Angelo, Mark Hamill and many others.

The Battle for Terra was not only a good animated film, it was a good science-fiction film as well.  Allow me to address the animation first.  The movie featured computer generated animation, and it was easily some of the best computer animation I have ever seen.  At times, it was easy to forget that I was watching an animated movie, and felt more like many modern live-action movies (which are largely computer-generated as well).  Sweeping panoramic shots of the Terran landscape, and other breath-taking visuals almost makes this one worth watching, even if there was no plot.

But, the plot was solid as well.  It’s an interesting perspective on two different societies who nearly destroy themselves by war.  One of my only complaints would be, it could have done with a bit more exposition and development.  There is one 30 second segment of the movie in which they reveal about 20 minutes worth of plot.  It was almost as if one could hear the script-writer and director saying “oh, let’s get all this stuff out of the way and get to the action!”  However, this does lead to another benefit, the movie clocks in at 85 minutes, which makes for a quick viewing.

One additional criticism.  The movie follows what has become the Hollywood-tradition, in making the humans the bad guy.  According to this film, and so many others, humans are the ones who are going to destroy every world we come in contact with.  Apparently, in the minds of most movie-makers, humans are the cockroaches of the galaxy.  But, one must be willing to notice that there are just as many ‘good humans’ in this story as well.  So, at least they are trying to show the best of both worlds.

If someone has a son (or daughter) who is interested in science-fiction, and ready for something a little more intellectual than mindless explosions and blowing up space-bugs, this might be one worth checking out.

Title: The Battle for Terra
Year: 2007
Rating: PG
Advisories: very mild violence (animated)
Running Time: 85 minutes