Battle for Terra, originally known simply as Terra in the US, is a 2007 Speculative Fiction CGI movie about an invasion by advanced and hostile aliens, a dangerous friendship, the ties of family, and the hard choice of doing what's right and the survival of your race. Oh, and we're the godlike invaders.The planet Terra is home to a race of peaceful, floating aliens who celebrate life and live in harmony with nature, but everything is not as cheerful as it seems. Mala is a mechanically gifted and rebellious girl who questions their society's restriction on science and the Forbidden Zone. After an ominous eclipse, space ships descend and abduct several of the Terrians who mistake them for gods; among the abducted is Mala's father. This prompts her to try and get abducted herself, leading to a dangerous chase as she catches the attention of Lt. Jim Stanton. After a harrowing pursuit, she outmaneuvers him into a wind tunnel and his ship crashes.Mala takes him to her home, and with the help of his Robot Buddy, Giddy, keeps him from being suffocated in Terra's atmosphere. Stranded, Jim agrees to help Mala find her father in exchange for help returning home. Things only get more complicated for the two as friendship, loyalty, and family set them and their people up for a devastating battle that could wipe out one of the two races.A compact and entertaining movie, it doesn't pull its punches when it comes to the death involved in such a conflicting plot. It boasts a mixed cast of famous film stars and voice actors, with solid performances all around. A pity that the marketing was practically nonexistent, and few people were aware of the film when it came out.Has nothing to do with Toward the Terra.Now on Hulu.
This film provides examples of:
Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The film has several cases of what may pass in a film aimed for children/family, but not so as this is very much aimed at the Sci-Fi Fans or Star Wars Teens.
Mala and Giddy build an oxygen synthesizer that uses a single plant (like something from a flower pot) to create enough breathable air to keep Jim alive. The plant would be working at several orders of magnitude faster than anything from Earth to produce that much oxygen.
For that matter, the conversation preceding that scene implies there is no oxygen in the air, which flies in the face of current scientific rationale that oxygen is pretty much required for multicellular life (nothing else produces enough energy). One can rationalize this away by presuming that it's the concentration of oxygen that is the issue. It is possible to have a level high enough to support complex life on Terra but low enough to be lethal for humans, and then it would be almost a matter-of-course that the levels humans are used to would be lethal for Terrians (oxygen is a very toxic gas in high concentrations). It should also be noted that the murals depicting the ancient war the Terrians fought show clear pictures of bombs, explosions and fire, which would necessarily imply the presence of oxygen for combustion.
Action Girl: Mala, which is pretty unusual considering she grew up in a society without weapons.
Aliens Speaking English: Averted. The Terrian language is rendered in English for the viewers' convenience, but Mala requires Giddy's help to communicate with Jim.
Almost Out Of Oxygen: Jim runs out of oxygen in his spacesuit, and the other protagonists have to synthesize it for him. Later in the movie, Jim has to choose between pumping oxygen into a room to save his brother, or to pump the native air into a room to save the female protagonist. He takes a third option. Hemmer also reveals that the Ark itself is down to two months of breathable air, making their need for a new home all the more immediate.
Jim dies with a content expression on his face as his ship is consumed in flame.
Subverted with Hemmer. Though he initially keeps his composure while his men flee in response to Jim bearing down on the terraformer, he ultimately loses his cool at the final moment, as if he wasn't really convinced Jim would actually succeed.
Grey and Gray Morality: No one in this film is evil; the terrians' Big Brother is well meaning and kind, and most of the humans don't want to invade, but see no other option as their ship will fail in about two months, which is why the villain is so willing to do whatever it takes.
Innocent Aliens: The terrians... mostly. Those low hanging clouds in the Forbidden Zone? Ash clouds from a war that nearly destroyed their species.
Invisible Advertising: Lionsgate gave the film a very light marketing campaign (seemingly only promoting it with PG-13 genre films), reduced the theatre count on the film just days before opening (from 2,500 to only 1,000 theatres) and left it for dead against Wolverine. Most theatres pulled it after a week as a result. Also, the 3-D version was released in fewer theatres than usual (despite the few ads heavily promoting the 3-D).
"It" Is Dehumanizing: The humans refer to the terrians with the pronoun "it", or just call them monsters. Jim demonstrates that he's warming up when he refers to Mala as "she", a fact which Giddy points out.
Kick the Dog: The Sadistic Choice General Hemmer forces upon Jim. Subverted in that Jim's brother was apparently in on the plan and agreed to it in order to confirm Jim's loyalty.
Lampshade Hanging: General Hammer lampshades the terraforming device taking seven days, an obvious reference to Genesis, by saying, "Very biblical, don't you think?"
Literary Agent Hypothesis: In the beginning of the film we are introduced to aliens... that surprisingly speak English. Later on, one of the aliens meets an English-speaking human, at which point we realize that they actually can't understand each other. Obviously, the aliens are speaking their own language, and the filmmakers just gave it to us in English to make it easier to understand. Though it leads to a bit of confusion the first time the alien and human meet when one realizes that their first few lines (both of which we hear in English) are actually in different languages.
In the DVD Commentary the Director/Writer says he had originally intended to do something akin to The Hunt for Red October but many people found it more confusing than the way it ended up.
Living Gasbag: Pretty much all the native life on Terra consists of this, including the terrians.
Missing Mom: Mala's mother is dead before the film proper, shown in a subtle yet powerful scene of Mala putting out three dinner plates, pausing, then taking one away.
Moral Myopia: Hemmer justifies his coup by using footage of a terrian causing a hull breach that killed two humans along with the terrian. He refuses to even address that his men abducted said terrian, and that he was Mala's father and thus defending his daughter, despite the fact that the council he is arguing to brings up both points.
No Flow in CGI: No one has long hair (Jim is bald, the Terrians are hairless), and the only flowing surfaces are some pendants in the middle of the film.
There are also many scenes that seem deprived of after-effects and the only reason the Terrians floated was because they couldn't animate both races walking. Considering 16 people worked on it and it cost $4 Million (compare to Up's $150 million budget) it could have been worse.
Sadistic Choice: When Hemmer forces Jim to choose between saving Mala or his brother. Also doubles as a Secret Test of Character, since Jim's brother willingly went along with it to test Jim's loyalty.
Science Is Bad: Early in the film, it's mentioned that the Elders have to approve any new inventions. This is because the last industrial age led to the near-annihilation of their species.
Shout-Out: One of the characters yells, "It's a trap!"
Take a Third Option: Twice. Jim first is presented with the Sadistic Choice between saving Mala or his brother, and chooses his brother. Then he manages to save Mala by ordering Giddy to save her. Later, in the middle of the battle between human and terrian around the terraformer, he has to choose whether to rescue his brother or let Mala kill him for shooting down her friend. He flies between them, interrupting their fight, and then destroys the terraformer. Don't worry, it resulted in an Earn Your Happy Ending.
Terraforming: An example of terraforming an already-populated planet. In this case, by replacing the unspecified atmosphere with an oxygen-based one.
Used Future: The Ark is in horrible condition. There is not a single part of the ship that isn't covered in rust or worn out, and equipment failures that results in death are common.
We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: The president wants to explore all options before they go with genocide, while Hemmer advocates an "us or them" position. First contact consists of the military abducting numerous Terrians, and Jim opens fire immediately when he spots Mala's primitive flying machine. Later on, bombers lay waste to her village, probably because Mala managed to take down Jim's ship.