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Movie Review

Battle for Terra

MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
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Primary Audience:
Kids, Teens, Family
Genre:
Sci-Fi, Adventure, Animation
Length:
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
May 1, 2009 (wide—1,000 theaters)
DVD: September 22, 2009
Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions
Relevant Issues
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Environment

Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer

What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer

How might rain forest destruction affect our weather? Answer

War

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Love

Aliens (extraterrestrials)

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

For kids
Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Featuring: Chad Allen (Terrian Scientist—voice), Rosanna Arquette (Professor Lina—voice), Bill Birch (Terrian 2—voice), Brooke Bloom (Technician Quinn—voice), Tom Connolly (Technician Williams—voice), Brian Cox (General Hemmer—voice), David Cross (Giddy—voice), Beverly D'Angelo (Interrogator Wright—voice), Jim Devoti (Colonel Wheeler—voice), Chris Evans (Stewart Stanton—voice), James Garner (Doron—voice), Danny Glover (President Chen—voice), Mark Hamill (Elder Orin—voice), Alec Holden (Tulo—voice), Masam Holden (Tumi—voice), Vanessa Johansson (Sora—voice), Brian Johnson (Lt. Johnson—voice), David Krumholtz (Terrian Commander—voice), Phil LaMarr (Fabric Merchant—voice), Justin Long (Senn—voice), Worm Miller (Tuki—voice), Laraine Newman (Toy Merchant—voice), Amanda Peet (Maria Montez—voice), Ron Perlman (Elder Vorin—voice), Timi Prulhiere (Terrian 1—voice), Dennis Quaid (Roven—voice), Michael Scovotti (Lieutenant Evans—voice), Zoe Sidel (Kima), Danny Trejo (Elder Barum—voice), Luke Wilson (Jim Stanton—voice), Evan Rachel Wood (Mala—voice)
Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas
Producer: MeniThings LLC, Snoot Entertainment, Keith Calder, Ryan Colucci, Dane Allan Smith, Jessica Wu
Distributor: Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions

“They are coming.”

“Battle for Terra,” a CG animated sci-fi action adventure is rated PG for family viewing with the primary target being kids and teenagers. However, this should not be considered a “kids film,” as the subject matter involving the ‘end of humanity’ and genocide is not younger kids fare.

After Earth is destroyed, its last survivors roam space in a starship named the Ark searching for a new home to colonize. What awaits them at their journey’s end is Terra: a cloud-shrouded planet filled with wondrous life forms that share the world in almost perfect harmony. It is against this peaceful and beautiful backdrop that we witness the arrival of man and his fighters descending, as if from the heavens, in order to invade and capture the Terrian’s as a prelude to war.

The initial “invasion” appears all the more brutal when juxtaposed against the peaceful ways of the Terrians. It is here that a teen-aged Terrian, Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), sees her father Roven (Dennis Quaid) abducted. She heroically evades one of the Earth fighters and lures him into one of the natural perils of the world. The Earth ship is disabled, and Mala befriends the Earthman soldier Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson). Aided by his companion robot Giddy (David Cross), the trio embark on a journey to first save her father and later attempt to find a way of stopping a war that can only leave one race alive.

Standing in the way of the peace they seek is General Hemmer (Brian Cox) who goes against the ruling civilian council and conceives a plan to adapt the planet’s atmosphere for humans while simultaneously eliminating the peaceful Terrians in seven (7) days. “Very Biblical,” says the General in a tone many will interpret as mocking. A Bible lesson clearly the General has never learned is that “Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

Amidst hostilities, the natives still move forward with their “Ceremony of Life,” a festival that gathers all Terrians in an aerial ballet that celebrates the fact that, as Mala says, “…a long time ago we were apart from nature. We almost died. But now we’re together, forever in life.” Alluding to misguided philosophies espousing the “oneness” within nature, it is just another example that the “ideal” is what the Terrians represent and what the humans have yet to attain.

Parents should be aware of the more mature elements of the film, including a generous amount of violence. A majority of the deaths take place within explosions in battles, but deaths have undeniably taken place. Additionally, emotions reach a fever pitch during battle, with both the invading soldiers and the Terrians, peace loving Terrian Mala included. These characterizations may disturb younger children not prepared for the seeming realities of war.

Likewise, the cruelty of the humans was even further on display in a scene reminiscent of the TV series “X-Files,” when it is revealed that some of the captured Terrians have been experimented on.

There is an immodest and unnecessary scene involving a returning warrior getting an examination by the starships medical equipment. While it is apparent that he has no clothes during the exam, it is from a side view that reveals nothing vital. While brief in nature, this can be especially uncomfortable for younger viewers and may offend others.

Overall, the movie was both captivating and visually stunning. The audience finds itself in the unenviable position of rooting for the invaders, if only slightly, while hoping for an unheard of third solution to this dilemma. The landscapes, better called ‘skyscapes,’ for the majority of the scenes, as well as the Terrian cities that all jut above the clouds, were a testament to the filmmakers’ design and were striking throughout.

Targeting an entire race for extermination is a great wrong and one of the intended messages of this movie parallels the scriptural advice to “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:14).

A particularly moving scene involves one of sacrifice and recalls the words of Jesus when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Not appropriate for younger viewers, due to the intensity of the battle sequences and the overall subject matter, I would, however, recommend this movie for the storytelling, visuals, action and the audience-satisfying resolution it delivered.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Overall, I thought this was a very good movie. While the main character in this movie, Mala, does several things that are not right, disobeying her father, recklessly disregarding the wise warnings of her boy friend, and not staying in the spaceship as her human friend Jim instructed her to, each time there are negative consequences for her brash actions. This is in keeping with the biblical principle of “a man reaps what he sows.”

Overall, however, Mala has redeeming qualities, especially love, bravery, and compassion. It is these qualities which win her human friend Jim over and cause him to defend and save her people. The military in this movie appears to be representative of all of the surviving colonies of Earth, not the American military. The bad guy in this movie is General Hemmer, who rebelliously disobeys the civil government and stages a coup. For his rebellion against civil authority and his evil attempt at genocide, he loses his life. And so this movie can serve as a reminder of the terrible consequences that can result when military power usurps good civil government. This ought to remind us of the strong biblical principle: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Of course, this does not include lawless orders—those which violate God’s moral law, for as the apostles said when the Sanhedrin ordered them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus: “We must obey God rather than men.” In keeping with this principle of submission to higher moral law (God’s law) first, and to the ordinances of man secondarily, Jim disobeys the General and lays down his life to prevent the evil leader’s murderous intentions from being carried out. This reminds us of Jesus, who laid down his life for us. Scripture commands us to “seek peace and pursue it.” We are also taught not to be greedy, wasteful, or poor stewards of that which God has entrusted to us. In this sense, we should be mindful to preserve the wise handiwork of God in nature whenever possible. This movie echoes all of those good themes. In light of this, I think it is worth seeing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rusty, age 51 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This movie is interesting from a visual standpoint; beautiful shapes and colors, pleasing shades, but you quickly realize there is a subtle underlying message of environmental oneness, possibly Zen Buddhism (the heroine’s friend is called Senn) and it is all about a kind of peaceful, harmonic worship of nature and “the gods.” Mala is a defiant feministic figure who skips school, leads her boyfriend by the nose, and disobeys her father. She is portrayed as feisty and strong, the image of perfect womanhood. When the human race gets involved, the aggressive humans happen to be white Americans (the “good” council is made up of black, white and Asian and they are weaker and often overruled) there is a strong theme of religion, in that the mother ship is the Ark, the fighter crafts look like crusading crosses and Jim sacrifices himself for the good of the universe in a suicidal mission as he lifts up his eyes to the heavens… as Jesus says, “he lays down his life for his friends.” The aliens and the Earthlings come to live in peace and Jim is immortalized as a statue in a state of bliss in the center of the new utopia. Gorgeous images and nice themes of love and friendship, but over all Battle for Terra (Earth) is uncomfortably new age.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Christopher Winter, age 54 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I didn’t really know anything about this movie, but my friend put it into his DVD player so I decided to watch it. As the credits began to roll I could only think one thought: “What was that about?”

“Battle for Terra” has an okay premise, but it fails to provide any entertainment in the long run. The actors are unconvincing, the action bright and colorful yet lacking with any real purpose, and there is little to no real character development. Characters are simply there and things happen to them and then the movie ends. This story is just so plain the young children we were watching it with (all this took place at a BBQ get-together) said things like: “I don’t understand.”; “That movie was stupid.”; “I don’t want to see that again.” These kids were between 7 and 11, which I would assume is the target audience. If they didn’t like it, how can anyone else? Don’t bother, it’s not even worth a cheap rental.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Benjamin Badger, age 18 (USA)
Negative—Unfortunately, we paid $25 to see this piece of far-leftist Anti-American propaganda, and we encourage anyone who cares about America, our military, our country’s history, to steer way clear of this anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-military movie. It should have been rated PG-13 and for shame that it was marketed to children and their unsuspecting parents. First the premise assumes that our military would conduct a hostile take-over of a country (planet in this case) and kill all inhabitants blindly without negotiations. We have never done that, but this movie portrays Americans as Imperialists who would do that.

Yes, we have made some mistakes in our history that we are not proud of, but we have never gone to the extent portrayed in this movie, and never would. The general who ordered this operation referenced the Bible…saying that the mission would take 7 days “…kind of Biblical, huh?” he asks. Why would they have the character reference that if it were not to show that he was a Christian. Of course, the Judeo-Christian viewpoint is linked to imperialist America in this way, and the suicide bomber at the end, something I would never imagine would be featured and glorified in a kids movie was a sympathetic character--handsome and endearing--and the general was a harsh man who bore a very strong resemblance to George W. Bush. Another disturbing element in this movie was the depiction of torture by asphyxiation and the word asphyxiation was even used. It was shown in three key scenes…the last of which showed our military campaign causing the asphyxiation of the gentle, peace-loving aliens in gory detail. Flip-flopped values, anti-Americanism, glorification of suicide, depiction of torture, anti-American military, and the depiction of a destroyed Earth, and in a particularly shocking scene, an American military soldier killing his own superior. We as a Christian family were sickened by this movie, and told the manager of the theater so.

We would like to encourage all patriotic Americans to either stay away, or see it and ask for your money back. Write to your theater manager and the theater chain management with your complaints and request they pull the movie. Sure, the final message is fine…let’s talk about things and work things out first before we declare war…we are all for that. However, at the expense of our own country, our military? Should we glorify suicide missions as means to an end? We were talking about ow different Star Wars was from this movie. Imagine Luke Skywalker attacking his own father, Darth Vadar instead of trying to bring him to redemption first, which he did. If Terra’s philosophy had pervaded the Star Wars movies, Luke would have destroyed his father the easy way, in a suicide mission, instead of resisting hate as a good Jedi would, and leading him to the truth through his actions in the end. I guess the easy way out is OK now…we have to be very careful about what Hollywood is trying to teach our children these days. In a strange twist, Mark Hamill who portrayed Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, was one of the voice talents in this movie. Boycott Battle for Terra and the actors and actresses who took part in this film!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Laurie W., age 50 (USA)
Comments from young people
Neutral—“Battle for Terra” was not quite as impressive as I thought it would be. It’s your typical sci-fi movie agenda, man is searching for a new planet to live on and must have war with the aliens, aliens are portrayed as innocent beings… etc. Though VERY predictable, I believe this movie will not fail to amuse science fiction lovers.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Emily, age 12 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
We DID watch the beginning of this movie. As parents of 5 young children, we thought this (approved by the Dove website) would be a good selection for a family movie. We only made it through the first 25 minutes. We were appalled at the blatant anti-military, anti-American and pro nature-worship theme. Just at the beginning, the heroine is a young, disobedient, defiant girl serving to educate the ignorant, war hungry selfish American soldier. …
—Perry and Lori, age 29 (USA)
It sounds like this is definitely one to avoid for all Christians. Not only does it seem to have some confusing messages about humans being all aggressive, suicide bombers, mad military (Christian) generals but there’s a healthy amount of innuendo here that seems to say religious people would do such a thing as annihilate another race. All the biblical references seem negative, with plenty of hints thrown in to make sure that people understand that the mindset in the film with the plan to destroy the aliens is very much Christian (what with the “seven days” type of comments and someone mentioned fighter that look like crosses—certainly evident in the preview and trailers). So Christian humans (crusaders, almost) would try to take this “land” by force, killing everyone if they must but then the gaya, peace-loving Utopians prevail. Not for me, I’m afraid.
—Richard, age 41 (UK)