At the Cinema | Battle for Terra – Animated adventure goes over familiar terrain

 Battle for Terra - animated sci-fi adventure featuring the voice of Evan Rachel Wood as plucky Mala

Does this sound familiar? War-mongering humans invade an alien planet in search of a valuable resource that an environmentally ravaged Earth cannot provide. Amid the conflict, a female native of the alien planet saves a human warrior from death and opens his eyes to a new way of living. Human and alien then join forces to save the day.

Yes, this does pretty much sum up the plot of James Cameron’s all-conquering blockbuster Avatar, but it’s also the story of the much more modest animated sci-fi adventure Battle for Terra, another long-cherished project by a Canadian-born director.

In this case, the director is Aristomenis Tsirbas, whose Hollywood break came, would you believe, as a visual effects artist on Titanic. Oh, and his movie (based on his 2003 animated short Terra) is in 3D too.

Battle for Terra - director Aristomenis Tsirbas’s animated sci-fi adventure

Battle for Terra also has odd-looking aliens. The Terrians (Terrareans? Terrapins?) aren’t, however, as slinky or as sexy as Avatar’s Na’vi. In fact, they look rather like tadpoles or spermatozoa, squiggly creatures that float through their planet’s dense atmosphere living peaceful lives in harmony with their surroundings.

All of which comes under threat, of course, when the trigger-happy humans appear on the scene, looking for a planet to colonise. Many Terrians initially welcome the invaders as gods, but plucky young Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) fights back, downs one of the hostile spacecraft and then rescues its injured pilot (Luke Wilson) and nurses him back to health…

Lacking the zip of the recent Astro Boy, Battle for Terra’s story won’t win prizes for originality and nor will its rather lacklustre animation carry off any gongs. I can’t say the 3D adds much either. Tsirbas’s heart is clearly in the right place, but some young viewers will probably thrill to the videogame-like spills of the film’s frequent scenes of aerial combat before they heed its pacifist message.

On general release from 12th February.


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