Bless their hearts for trying, but the people who made “Battle for Terra” — who aren’t Pixar, DreamWorks, or any other major studio — simply can’t compete with the big boys when it comes to computer-animated feature films. The technical quality would have been terrific 10 years ago but looks cheap now, and while the basic story has potential, the execution is mediocre. At least it’s not “Delgo.”
“Battle for Terra” is set on the faraway planet of the title, where sleek, levitating tadpole-like beings are the dominant race, living in peace and harmony amongst themselves. Certain details suggest this civilization must have a fascinating backstory: it is against the law to invent new things without permission, and when a new thing appears in the sky, the society’s elders suspect it might be a new god for everyone to worship.
These details are left unexplored, though, in favor of the more mundane story at hand. The new lights in the sky turn out to be an invading force from a planet called Earth — hey, I know that place! — which has become uninhabitable, necessitating the search for a new planet to call home. Terra’s atmosphere isn’t breathable for humans, which you’d think would be a deal-breaker, but it’s otherwise suitable. And really, any port in a storm, right?
Mala (voice of Evan Rachel Wood), our spunky, headstrong young heroine, befriends a human soldier named Stanton (Chris Evans) who has been wounded, thus bridging the gap between the two warring races. Stanton’s commander, Gen. Hemmer (Brian Cox), is one of those “kill all the locals” kind of warmongers, so you can imagine his policy on being befriended by them. Meanwhile, Mala’s father and many other Terrians have been taken captive by the invading ships, and Mala wants to rescue them.
The film is an expansion of a 2003 short written and directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas. He has gotten script assistance from Evan Spiliotopoulos, who has a lot of experience on straight-to-video Disney knock-offs like “The Lion King 1 1/2.” The story is strictly Sci-Fi 101, with very little that’s original, though it is intriguing in the way it examines the real consequences of war, i.e., that people die, which is uncommon both in sci-fi and in animated films. Other than that, it’s completely negligible in every way, too intense for kids, too generic for adults, neither good enough to seek out nor bad enough to actively avoid.
C+ (1 hr., 25 min.; )