Battle for Terra

'Terra' treads familiar ground

By Ethan Gilsdorf
Globe Correspondent / May 1, 2009
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From: Commander-director Aristomenis Tsirbas

To: Aliens and moviegoers

Message: We are a friendly film entity. We mean you no harm. We seek 85 minutes to entertain you and your offspring with our animated offering.

Yes, "Battle for Terra" is a clash-of-civilizations construct - peace-loving creatures versus warlike ones - and yes, it ends in a climactic battle. (In-joke: The invaders aren't tentacle-waving mutants, but desperate humans seeking a new home because they trashed Planet Earth. Ha Ha.)

But when a human pilot (voice of Luke Wilson) crashes on placid Terra and is befriended by alien teen Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), is it not logical they would team up to find a way for the two races to coexist?

If you find the plot predictable, as a distraction we present an arsenal of 3-D visuals. For the Terrians, we crossed tadpoles with E.T. and stuck them on an earth-toned world of floating mushroom-shaped high-rises. You can tell the militaristic humans are bad because their spaceships are metal and glow neon, whereas Terrians fly low-tech, bird-shaped aircraft made of cloth and love.

The robotic Giddy (David Cross) provides comic relief. OK, it's a WALL-E/C-3PO rip-off. OK, more than a few shades of "Star Wars" color our joyous cartoon. The humans pilot TIE Fighter shoo-ins, and the mother-ship interiors are based on Death Star schematics. Mark Hamill has a walk-on voice gig as one of the fish-faced elders.

But our plot twist (Terrians not who they seem?) will please you. We also spare you from musical numbers.

Please, moviegoers, time is running out for us. Our civilization (and bottom line) depend on fast-food kiddie meals stuffed with toys. In this way, we conquer the solar system.

Our plea: Send us your offspring.

BATTLE FOR TERRA Directed by: Aristomenis Tsirbas

Starring: voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, James Garner, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, and Dennis Quaid

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 85 minutes

Rated: PG (sci-fi action violence, thematic elements)