Ideology Impedes Storytelling in Battle for Terra
The new CGI film, told in luxurious 3-D, feels like a Star Wars spin-off with a hearty helping of pacifistic pieties. But Lucas's last Star Wars outing, the CGI Clone Wars, can't compare to the visually arresting Terra.
The new movie's eclectic casting choices -- no Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, or Seth Rogen here -- gives Terra an added texture and a sorely needed whiff of originality.
Battle for Terra begins on the peaceful planet of Terra, a land where harmony rules and war is a thing of the past. How did they progress that far? It's a bit fuzzy, but citizens aren't allowed to disobey the Elders, and it's a no-no to create things of which said Elders disapprove.
In other words, the Terrans traded freedom for peace. And that's a good thing, or so the film implies.
Their idyll is shattered when spaceships start swooping down and collecting Terran citizens. Turns out Earthlings long ago destroyed their planet, plus Mars and Venus, through war and indiscriminate foraging of their natural resources.
War for oil. Got it.
So now the remaining Earthlings live on a crumbling space station orbiting Terra, and the plan is to conquer and colonize Terra for themselves.
At least that's the vision offered up by Gen. Hemmer (the great Brian Cox proving he's a natural for animated projects). The general sees no problem obliterating an entire species just to keep his own alive. The Earthling's president, a black character who in no way resembles our current leader, protests the plan but can't share an appealing alternative.
In the liberal story world concocted here, just opposing Plan A is enough. No Plan B is required.
Battle for Terra gets personal when Mala, a rebellious Terran teen voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, rescues a fallen Earth soldier named Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson). The two grudgingly work together during the film's middle sequences, the sharpest of the entire film.
Naturally, Jim is quick to judge and quicker to fight, but Mala teaches him to respect her fellow Terrans. And that doesn't sit well with Gen. Hemmer, whose evil bona fides are cemented when he makes a passing reference to the Bible.