FILM REVIEW: Battle For Terra

The ASDA-price Avatar

PG • 79 mins • 12 February
Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox, Dennis Quaid, Justin Long, Danny Glover

It’s a remarkable aspect of filmmaking that every so often two completely different, but suspiciously similar, movies find themselves butting heads at the box office, leaving us confused punters struggling to remember whether Ants or A Bug’s Life is the good one, and if it’s Armageddon or Deep Impact that has all the explosions.With James Cameron’s big blue epic having set records across the globe then, what better time to release Battle For Terra, a film about a peace loving, big-eyed alien race living in harmony with nature who are invaded by a warmongering human force. Any of this sound familiar yet?

Plot coincidences aside (they’re both basically Pocahontas mashed with a “War On Terror” allegory) watching Terra is a far more underwhelming experience, one akin to waking up on Christmas morning and finding a pile of sock-shaped pressies under the tree. It aims to be an earnest, thought-provoking sci-fi fable for kids about the futility of aggression (that somewhat predictably concludes with an all-guns-blazing interstellar battle), but ends up preachy and rarely rises above consistently dull.

The starry voice cast is wasted, with most phoning in a two- or three-line performance. The biggest disappointment, however, is the visuals, as Terra’s low-budget origins become painfully obvious on the big screen. The simplistic alien designs look more like a giggle-inducing sperm swarm in wide shots because legs were too expensive and time-consuming to create, while textures and dynamic lighting resemble those of a first-generation CG toon.

Despite all this, Terra has a certain charm. There’s some creative design work on show, particularly the Da Vinci-esque flying contraptions, and the film makes good use of its limited locations with some impressive neon-colour displays. But when it feels so inconsequential and slight it’s hard to care.

Jordan Farley