There's no limit when it comes to the sci-fi genre. Some of the greatest films, shows, books, and even video games of all time have delved into this media and it's really left a big impact on audiences. The same can be said for animation as some great animated movies and shows have come from the genre. Unfortunately, not a whole lot as some of them have ranged from being either mediocre to just plain bad. I was hoping that "Battle For Terra" would be an animated film that could be another winner for the genre, but this film isn't one of them. Instead, it ended up being another disappointing animated sci-fi film and one that really isn't very good at all. It was a difficult film to get through honestly.
On an alien planet known as Terra live an alien race who have been peaceful for many generations. One of these aliens is named Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) who along with her best friend Senn (Justin Long) have been having fun exploring the planet on glider like inventions. One day though, a giant space station comes down and begins to attack the planet and kidnaps many of the inhabitants including Mala's father, Roven (Dennis Quaid). Trying to get her father back, Mala ends up allowing one of the space stations to crash to find a human soldier named Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson). After saving his life with the help of Stanton's robot Giddy (David Cross), he tells them that humans are facing extinction due to wars and the destruction of Earth, Mars, and Venus and that Terra is their last hope for survival. Mala convinces Jim to take her to the station to find her father and from there lots of battles and sci-fi nonsense ensue and it's simply just not fun to watch.
This is a film I feel could've had the potential to be promising. Instead of aliens from another planet attacking humans, it's a movie where humans attack aliens from a different planet like a reverse "War of the Worlds". That's something that could've been promising and had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, director Aristomenis Tsirbas and his crew of Snoot Entertainment didn't go with that approach and instead made the film where the alien rescues the human and convinces him that their kind isn't bad. What a real letdown. I think from the right director, it could be interesting to see the human characters be portrayed in a negative light (which in a way they are, but we'll get more into that later) but the film just didn't seem to want to focus on it. It also didn't help that the film felt rather pretentious at times and seemed to hammer a religious allegory down audiences throats and it felt so forced. While I liked the idea of the aliens seeing the humans initially as gods and misinterpreting the attacks of the gods punishing them, it got to a point where it just got so forced to me. There's a part where the general (Brian Cox) talks about covering the planet with oxygen and how it will only take seven days and then adds "Sounds kind of biblical, doesn't it?". Stuff like that made me groan. Also, the climax of this film was so unimpressive as it just reminded me of the climax from "Star Wars" where the Rebels attack the Death Star. It was just not fun. As far as the animation goes, it's awful. Like, it's really bad. Apparently, the film initially premiered in 2007 at TIFF before being put back into production to add 3D before being released finally in 2009. I wish that the studio instead used the money to make the animation better rather than add 3D because this film apparently cost only $4 million to make and it shows. Even for 2007 standards, this looks really bad. This animation looks more like a student film than a full-length feature film. The world designs are stale and lifeless and the environments are even worse. There's a point in this film where characters are walking through the snow and yet they don't even leave footprints. To make matters worse, when one character falls into the snow, the imprint looked like plastic. It was just embarrassing. Also, the character designs are easily the worst part of this film. The humans look like plastic and their lip movement is very poor often resembling a video game found on an Xbox from 2001. The aliens' designs are even worse though. Their characters resemble sperm and have these big droopy eyes that make it hard to read emotion which really sinks the emotional parts of this film. Speaking of the characters, they're not much better either. Mala is underdeveloped. The film hints at the beginning she's an inventor and somewhat a troublemaker, but that aspect is never brought up again as the film goes along. Jim is boring as well. This character is a blank slate and is only there to do something in the climax which only comes across as really lazy writing. It doesn't help that the voice acting for this film was also really bad. The actors read their lines without true emotion or empathy but rather doing it for a paycheck. David Cross is an actor I really felt bad for. They could've made him a funny robot by giving him a lot of snark and some comedy, but they took that away as he utters at one point in the film "You didn't program me with sarcasm". Why would you cast a funny actor like David Cross in a film if you're not gonna have him do something funny? What wasted potential.
And honestly, wasted potential is the perfect description for "Battle for Terra". The story had promise but came across as stale and at times pretentious, the animation was terrible and looked incredibly dated even at the time, and the characters are unappealing and have really poor voice performances. This is a film I don't recommend at all. It's a really bad and pretty boring animated sci-fi film. I read that the director was trying to make the film live action at one point and that's what he should've gone with. If so, this film would just be seen as another bland sci-fi film. As is though, it's yet another disappointing film in the animated sci-fi genre.