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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 was 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.
- Acceptable Breaks From Reality: the film has a 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.
- The plant Mala uses to photosynthesize oxygen for Jim must be working at several orders of magnitude faster than anything from earth, and its very existence raises the question of why Terra does not have oxygen in its atmosphere. For that matter, the current thinking is that oxygen is pretty much REQUIRED for multicellular life (nothing else produces enough energy) so the Terrians would have to be oxygen breathers. 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 really is a very toxic gas, and breathing it at a level higher than what you've evolved for for too long really does have lethal consequences). It should also be noted that the murals depicting the ancient war the Terrians fought show clear pictures of bombs, explosions and fire, which of course, requires there to be oxygen in the atmosphere.
- 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.
- Anyone Can Die: Jim, and Mala's father.
- Apocalypse How: The terraformer can create a breathable atmosphere for humans... but in the process, will kill all native life.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Not only the Superweapon Surprise; the Terrians fight surprisingly well for such a pacifistic people.
- Because they weren't always "Celebrating Life"
- Exposition Beam: Used in place of Translator Microbes.
- First Contact: For both species, although the film focuses on the Terrians.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Mala.
- General Ripper: General Hemmer.
- 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.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Jim, who died destroying the terraformer.
- Humans Are Cthulhu
- 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).
- 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.
- Mother Ship: The Ark is the humans' Generation Ship which is about to become unlivable.
- My Species Right Or Wrong: Jim's brother's attitude.
- No Flow in CGI: No one has long hair (Jim is Bald, Mala's people 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.
- Outrun the Fireball: Both subverted and applied straight. When the terraformer goes boom, the fireball outruns Jim, but his brother and Mala manage to barely escape it.
- Planet of Hats: Averted. The Terrians weren't always a happy, life loving people. They were once a warlike people who nearly wiped themselves out.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The President and his council before a coup which results in Hemmer taking over.
- The Right of a Superior Species: The humans justify their invasion by the right of their superior technology, their view that the aliens aren't sapient, and that Earth was destroyed and they need to repopulate the species somewhere.
- Robot Buddy: Giddy.
- Sadistic Choice: When Hemmer forces Jim to choose between saving Mala or his brother.
- Space Whale: Well, flying planet whales at any rate.
- Superweapon Surprise: The Terrians' past fighters and tanks.
- Take a Third Option: Twice. Jim first is presented with the Sadistic Choice between saving Mala or his brother, and chooses his brother. 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 living planet. In this case, by replacing the unnamed 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.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: General Hemmer has humanity's survival as his goal, even if it means exterminating the Terrians.