Battle for Terra is an excellent science fiction movie that you probably haven’t even heard of. I say that because I didn’t see a single ad for it, print or TV, there were no trailers released with other movies as near as I can tell, and not a lot of other publicity. And it opened the weekend before Star Trek. When we went to see it opening weekend, there were fewer than 10 people in the theater, and i suspect the only reason it lasted a week was because they’d already contracted for it. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to improve—it had been making the circuit of film festivals and the like for 2 years, before getting distribution, and doesn’t appear to have anybody lined up for DVD sales, either. Which is really too bad, because it’s pretty rare that we get a good science fiction movie, and Battle for Terra definitely is.
The basic story is a staple of science fiction—and a host of other sorts of films: it is the story of conquest, and conflict over limited resources. In this particular case, humans are trying to colonize another planet, which necessitates terraforming it and thus wiping out the indigenous life. Where it gets interesting is that it is told from the point of view of the invaded, which means the aliens. It’s War of the Worlds in reverse.
We start off by meeting the aliens, and their world is gorgeously realized. I don’t think I’ve seen a more-believable or better-detailed alien world since The Dark Crystal (though I can think of several others that come close, such as Kaena). Only once we’ve gotten a good overview of the world, seen what it is like, do the “aliens” arrive. And begin to wreak havoc.
The protagonists are brought to life in a way that aliens rarely are. I truly believed in these characters, despite their animated nature, despite their alienness. But, at the same time, they weren’t just men in funny masks, which is so often the failing of aliens in cinema. Also, unlike so many science fiction films, Battle for Terra sticks true to its premises, rather than just devolving into an action flick with funny-looking characters and unexplained technology.
My only complaint about the movie would be the ending. It could definitely have used a bit more of a denouement. As is, while the resolution is perfectly believable, it would’ve been nice to see a few more of the steps to get there spelled out.
Despite this one flaw, I still heartily recommend Battle for Terra—if you can find a way to see it.