Tue April 28, 2009
Battle for Terra
Adventure and Heart
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Wherefore you do so ill translate yourself
Out of the speech of peace, that bears such grace,
Into the harsh and boist'rous tongue of war;
Turning your books to graves, your ink to blood,
Your pens to lances, and your tongue divine
To a loud trumpet and a point of war?" Shakespeare's Henry IV, II
Battle for Terra is an animated Star Wars for the 21st century?a successful mix of adventure and heart with a slight overload of moralizing. The peaceful planet Terra is terrorized by the remaining people of Earth, who have traveled over time and space to find a substitute for the planet they destroyed.
The Terrareans are sperm like people with Kean-like eyes suitable for tears. These gentle and intelligent "aliens" are not unsuited to defending themselves, helped by their rebellious, Princess Leia-like Mala (voice of Evan Rachel Wood), who tends to a wounded earthling, the Han Solo-like Lt. James Stanton (Luke Wilson), both of whom must deal with Earth's General Hemmer (Brian Cox), a Dick Cheney-like commander whose answer to survival is armed aggression that begins by wresting power from his own president, a black man with soulful mien reminiscent of Barack Obama.
That last description leads into my appreciation of the allegorical implications such as the US invasion of Iraq, torture as tactic, and resistance to alternatives. The need for nations to cooperate or face annihilation is repeated but well taken given the eternal opposition of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Iran and North Korea in the nuclear arms race.
While Battle for Terra lacks humor and preaches a bit too much, it still can be enjoyed by the whole family; its absolute lack of sexual situations (even Princess Leia induced some lustful thoughts) is refreshing and appropriate given the stark difference in the worlds. For the brainier family members, the explanation about the challenges of making oxygen is another rewarding element.
All these moral and aesthetic points are amply relayed throughout, making it a didactic work of art first and entertainment second. I would prefer it the other way around.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain