“Battle for Terra” is a 3-D oddity – a war movie grafted onto an antiwar message. Naive but ambitious, it comes across as a “Battlestar Galactica” vetted by pacifists, “Clone Wars” neutered for Saturday morning kids’ TV.
Earth and its colonies have been destroyed by the polluting, feuding, resource-looting human race, whose survivors are now confined to a vast, clockwork space ark that is breaking down and running out of supplies.
The humans scout a planet that might be suitable for “terra-forming” – having its atmosphere adjusted to let humanity breathe. But once they do that, the ancient, peaceful and seemingly primitive civilization of flying mermaids who live there will die. Their flying whales and even the gigantic mushrooms they live in will croak, too.
A Terran is seized on a scouting mission by the humans. An Earth Force warrior scout (Luke Wilson) crashes and is left behind.
Will Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), the daughter of the kidnapped Terran, save the human and free her dad? Can the “us or them” humans be reasoned with?
Gen. Hammer (Brian Cox, well cast) is determined to shoot first and maybe build a nice memorial to the people destroyed later. The Terran leader (James Garner) is more an aged hippy: “Love and mercy can triumph over hate and violence.”
The grown-up themes in the film suggest Japanese anime, with death, sacrifice and suicide touched on in its 80-plus minutes. On the other side, there’s the cutesy “helper” robot who serves as intermediary between the races.
There’s little that’s subtle here; messages are delivered with a capital M. The third act is one epic dogfight.
The 3-D adds little to this animation, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the computer-animated “Delgo” of last year. Visually, “Terra” is only as good as its “Star Wars” tribute battle.
In making animation that isn’t dark enough for older fans and is too message-centric for kids, Team “Terra” has created a film that will probably satisfy no one.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.