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|Battle for Terra
dir Aristomenis Tsirbas
scr Evan Spiliotopoulos
prd Keith Calder, Ryan Colucci, Dane Allan Smith, Jessica Wu
voices Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox, Chris Evans, Justin Long, Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover, David Cross, James Garner, Amanda Peet, Ron Perlman, Mark Hamill
release US 1.May.09, UK 12.Feb.10
07/US Snoot 1h25
I see you: Giddy, Mala and Stanton
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Made two years before the similarly themed AVATAR, this original, vividly designed sci-fi animation makes an astute commentary on current issues. And this depth of feeling more than makes up for the relatively slack pace and thin characters.
When a giant ship of humans arrives at an isolated planet, they don't really understand that the residents are living in peace with nature and others. So they launch an all-out attack on the world they have named Terra. But a feisty local named Mala (Wood) stands up to them, teaming up with crash-landed earthling Stanton (Wilson) and his robot sidekick (Cross). And earth's General Hemmer (Cox) is more than happy to indulge in annihilation top get his hands on this planet.
There's a reason for this carnage: both species can't breathe the same air, so by "terraforming" the planet into an oxygen-based world, the inhabitants will die. The filmmakers actually grapple with this moral conundrum, even if they never get too deep about it. After all, this is an animated movie for kids. So the film is packed with derring-do, eye-catching spectacle and some comical asides. Although it never quite cuts loose, always staying in a slightly slower gear.
On the other hand, most movies like this don't have nearly this much going on under the surface. The issues in this film are truly complicated, even as the script continually simplifies both the situations and the characters, all of whom are good guys except for the ferociously warmongering Hemmer. With characters this straightforward, there's not much the cast can do with them, and the minimalistic expressions offered by the animators don't add a lot of zing either.
But if it rarely achieves much real energy, it's also never dull. The level of visual invention and artistry is extremely high, from the fascinating world created by the designers to the people, creatures and contraptions that inhabit it. And even though the characters are rather plastic-looking, when the action takes to the skies, the film doesn't look any more animated than any other sci-fi movie. In fact, it looks a lot better. And has more important things to make us think about.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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