tek's rating: ½

Battle For Terra (PG)
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Caution: Spoilers!

First of all, I want to say that this movie reminds me of various other things, such as Avatar and... well, probably other stuff. Anyway, it starts out kinda lame, but eventually it gets really pretty dramatic. I'd like to avoid major spoilers, but I can't do that if I want to explain why the movie is better than it seems at first.

Okay. So there's this alien planet, and we start out getting to see a bit about the peaceful lives of the natives who live there, most notably a girl named Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) and her best friend, Senn (Justin Long). The first thing I want to say about their species is... they look fairly different from humans, and I'm not sure how... believable they look, but the main thing about them (aside from having a sort of tail instead of legs, which they use to sort of fly in a limited capacity, more like swimming through the air, though they also use flying machines like gliders or something), aside from that, the main thing I noticed about them is their eyes. Very big, which I suppose is common to lots of cartoon characters, especially in anime, like... mo type characters, with tareme eyes, or whatever... something that has the psychological effect of making you find them cute and innocent and having protective feelings toward them. Which I guess is kind of important to the plot of this movie in a way, though not really necessary... what's really important is more about a philosophical conundrum, but I'll get to that later. Though if there's a third thing to mention about the aliens' appearance, it's that it vaguely reminds me of Greys from typical alien abduction stories (minus the part about tails instead of legs, of course). Anyway, Mala is an adventurous girl, and very inventive. And then one day, something blots out the sun, and everyone is wondering what it is. They start thinking it must be a new god. But Mala wants to make something to help her see it better... her father, Roven (Dennis Quaid), warns her not to, because that would be one of the technologies which is forbidden by the Elders. But she makes a telescope anyway, not that it does much good. She sees what's blocking the sun just in time to witness fighter ships emerging from it and heading toward her village, which get there before she can even return from her vantage point.

There's some chaos then, as the ships start abducting people, many of whom clearly want to be abducted. But one who was taken against his will was Roven, and so she wants to get him back. She tries to get taken by one of the ships, but they pass her by. Though she does get one to chase her, and causes it to crash. She then rescues its pilot, Lt. Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson), and takes him back to her home. Then a robot named Giddy (David Cross), who worked for Jim, involves itself in the situation, and instantly teaches Mala Stanton's language. They build an environmental habitat for Jim which will provide him with oxygen, since the planet's atmosphere is... different. That's a very important point of this movie, that humans and the natives require different air to survive. Giddy also gives a brief history of why humans have come to this world, which they call Terra (and the natives therefore "Terrians," though we never hear what they call themselves or their world). And here's the first major spoiler: long ago, humans had used up Earth's resources, and terraformed Venus and Mars. But then at some point there was a civil war, and all three planets ended up being destroyed. Survivors set off in an Ark space ship to search for a new world to colonize, and after some generations, arrived at Terra. Anyway, eventually Jim wakes up, and doesn't trust Mala at first, but after a little while they make a deal. If she helps him repair his ship, he'll take her to her father.

Well, things don't go that smoothly, but I'll skip the details. Suffice to say, Mala, Jim, and Giddy eventually end up on the Ark, though they get separated. (Mala eventually finds her father, but I won't spoil anything about how that ends.) Meanwhile, we find that Jim has a younger brother named Stewart (Chris Evans), who is also a fighter pilot, and a staunch supporter of General Hemmer (Brian Cox), who's in command of EarthForce. Jim is being hailed as a war hero because of the time he spent on Terra, and finally returning home. But he's not at all happy about Hemmer's plans for Terra. He wants to terraform the planet, releasing oxygen so it'll be habitable by humans, but not by Terrians. At first Hemmer is stymied by the civilian Council, led by President Chen (Danny Glover); there are those who would prefer a peaceful solution. But, it turns out there are only two months left of oxygen on the Ark, which is not enough time to find another world. So basically, the only option seems to be to wipe out the Terrians, or allow the human race to go extinct. Hemmer tests Jim's loyalty after Mala is captured, by throwing Stewart into a chamber with her, which contained air breathable by her, and giving Jim the choice of changing it to air breathable by his brother. I don't want to say... exactly how this goes, but it's clearly a pretty horrible situation for Jim. But I will say that ultimately, both Stewart and Mala live, and Giddy helps Mala escape back to her home. Meanwhile, Hemmer stages a military coup against the Council.

Later, there's a major battle between the humans and the Terrians. And... we also learn more about the Terrians' own past, which isn't that dissimilar from that of the humans, even though the Elders had kept their people from knowing the truth. But Mala and Senn were among the Terrians who ended up fighting against the humans, who included Jim and Stewart, of course. It's all very tragic, knowing there are people on both sides of the conflict who hate doing what they have to do to save their own respective races. I don't know... what I would do in Jim's place. I mean, I know I couldn't take part in bringing about the extinction of an alien race, but I also damn sure couldn't take part in allowing my own race to go extinct. It's an impossible situation, compounded by the fact that he felt the need to protect his brother, but also to protect Mala.

Anyway. there's definitely some tragedy in the movie, but the end... is pretty happy, to an improbable degree. Not that I have a problem with that. It was pretty good, actually. Definitely... a good movie.

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