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Battle for Terra (Blu-ray Review)

20 Sep, 2009 By: John Latchem

Street 9/22/09
Animated Sci-Fi
Box Office $1.6 million
$19.98 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements.
Voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox, James Garner, Chris Evans, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, David Cross, Justin Long, Dennis Quaid, Luke Wilson.

The ambitious sci-fi premise at the heart of Battle for Terra was apparently pitched as a live-action project before ending up as CG animation. Despite a modest budget, the filmmakers have turned out an elegantly designed film with clean animation that serves the story well. Sci-fi fans would do well to check it out.

The film begins on an alien world populated by peaceful creatures that float through the air. One of the aliens, Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), watches as the sky is darkened by an ominous spaceship that sends smaller craft to capture some of the natives.

One of the ships crashes, and Mala finds its pilot, who turns out to be human, a descendant of the survivors of a war that long ago led to the destruction of Earth. Generations later, the remaining humans have arrived at this new world, which they dubbed Terra, hoping to make it their new home.

The setup inverts the typical alien-invasion storyline, which often finds Earth endangered by anonymous aliens with similar motives.

The pilot (Luke Wilson) befriends Mala and takes her back to his ship, where there is a clear divide about how to proceed with Terra. Some are wary about harming the natives, but a ruthless military commander (Brian Cox in a typical role for him) wants to terraform the planet, which would kill its inhabitants. But the Terrians aren’t ready to roll over, either.

The twist making humans the invaders puts a refreshing spin on the genre and lets the filmmakers play with audience expectations. While the concept opens the door for heavy-handed political sentiment, the film avoids such pitfalls, putting more emphasis on action.

The Blu-ray is relatively light on extras, but what it has covers a lot of ground. A making-of featurette and filmmaker commentary delve into the challenges of making indie CG-animated films, while production sketches provide further insight into the filmmaking process. There are a few deleted scenes, one of which smooths over one of the ethical dilemmas that seems a little too hastily resolved in the final film.
Notably missing is the original short upon which the film is based.   

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