Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Talk about a movie getting no love. The only reason I know that this movie even existed was because of the trailer that played during ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’. I saw no TV commercials, no print ads, no nothing about this movie ‘The Battle for Terra’ and people who I know that follow stuff like this rather closely had never even heard of the movie. Shoot, when I told the ticket girl which movie I was there to see she was like ‘what?’ and then had to hunt on her little screen, just like the fast food dudes have to hunt on the register when you ask for a special burger order. Needless to say I was the only person in the theater watching this movie and so I didn’t even turn off my cell phone. My wife called me in the middle of the movie and I answered the phone in the empty theater to tell her that I would call her back. I don’t know why Lionsgate didn’t show this movie any love because it was actually pretty good.

Taking place sometime in what I hope is the way, way distant future, our movie opens on an alien planet full of cute small round eyed floating aliens, or at least aliens to us since is their home, who live to learn and love in peace. Our story focuses on Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) who is pretty typical in stories such as these as she is a bit rebellious, plays by a different set of rules and drives her father crazy. She’s also like the smartest person on the planet inventing all kinds of crazy stuff though the velvet fisted rulers of the planet must sanction just about anything that anybody does.

Then one day ‘they’ show up. Or should I say ‘we’. A big vessel darkens the sky releasing all kinds of crazy looking laser firing space ships and our cute little floating aliens are under attack. Mala in particular finds herself being pursed rather passionately by a ship that seems committed to blowing into little alien to bits, but the girl outsmarts the pilot who crashes into the snow. Being the benevolent type Mala rescues the man and under instruction from the pilots R2D2-esque robot assistant Giddy (David Cross), she saves the pilots life building him a little oxygen chamber since this planet, at least as it is right now, can’t sustain human life.

As you might imagine when the pilot Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson) comes to he’s a bit startled at his alien ‘captor’ but eventually he comes to know Mala not as an enemy but as real live girl with feelings, hopes and dreams. When he makes it back to his base ship he tries to forward these thoughts to his commander General Hemmer (Bryan Cox) but due to extenuating circumstances, that would be us destroying our planet generations ago and the fact these people have been floating around in space for umpteen years trying to find a viable home, it’s time to take this planet that the humans have named Terra and make their own.

This should be no problem because these cute little aliens don’t have anything that can stop our WMD’s from eradicating them… but not so fast my friend because this little genocidal task isn’t going to be quite as easy as it initially seemed it would be as these cute little aliens have a bit of a history themselves. The movie is called the ‘Battle for Terra' and not the ‘Slaughter of Terra' after all. Yes Stanton and Mala have become friends but when push comes to shove, the fact of the matter is that the survival of both of their species is at stake and the battle lines have been clearly drawn. War does have its casualties.

Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas ‘The Battle for Terra’ mixes some familiar themes with a few current headlines to deliver us the not too terribly subtle message that war sucks. But also that it is sometimes necessary, which is why I must call to task those who claim this movie as ‘liberal’. Thus we have our kindly peaceful aliens who I suppose would be our ‘liberals’ who haven’t fully de-proliferated which isn’t really very liberal now is it. Besides, considering the strict government control that these aliens live under, they’re communist if anything, and surely we know the difference between communism and liberalism don’t we? To the contrary these people would then call the character of General Hemmer a ‘conservative’. Hardly. His character is a borderline insane fascist, ala Hitler, and I certainly hope these individuals aren't confusing conservatism with fascism. So if anything we have an allegory for Nazi Germany invading communist Russia.

Herein I suppose lie the problems with Lionsgate and the film its distributing ‘The Battle for Terra’. It’s got cute cuddly aliens, a fantastically articulated and well imagined alien world, some solid animation, though it probably isn’t as fluid as some of the product the larger studios put out, and it also has solid voice acting to go along with what is ultimately a very family friendly message in that violence is bad. It also has the message that violence is sometimes necessary to sustain peace. This probably leads to a narrative that is possibly too complex for younger children, a preachiness to it that has apparently insulted some adults and it has action sequences which treat the concept war realistically. Cute aliens die in this movie, humans fighting for the survival of their species die in this movie, sacrifice is required for the greater good in this movie and all of these concepts can be a little heavy for a young mind to digest. But ‘The Battle for Terra’ is still a good movie that I enjoyed in a theater with zero of my very close friends and I question why Lionsgate would even waste the effort to pick up and distribute this movie to theaters in the first place and then proceed to give it no support. Regardless, if nothing else, it will make for great rental or purchase when it makes it way to DVD.

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