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LIONS GATE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Aristomenis Tsirbas
Cast:
Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, James Garner, Danny Glover, Mark Hamill, David Cross, Ron Perlman, Brian Cox
Writing Credits:
Evan Spiliotopoulos, Aristomenis Tsirbas (story)

Tagline:
Their world is mankind's only hope for survival.

Synopsis:
When the peaceful inhabitants of the beautiful planet Terra come under attack from the last surviving members of humanity adrift in an aging spaceship, the stage is set for an all-out war between the two species for control of the planet. But will an unlikely friendship between a rebellious young Terrian (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) and an injured human pilot (Luke Wilson) somehow convince their leaders that war is not the answer?

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$1.082 million on 1160 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.647 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio:
English PCM 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/22/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Aristomenis Tsirbas, Screenwriter Evan Spiliotpoulos and Editor Jim May
• “The Making of Battle for Terra” Featurette
• Four Deleted Scenes
• “From Storyboard to Final Render: Mala Sneaks Around” Featurette
• “Animatics: Mala’s Escape”
• “Production Design” Featurette
• “Aristomenis Tsirbas: Pulling the Strings” Featurette
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Battle For Terra [Blu-Ray] (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 28, 2009)

If an actual Star Wars animated film underperforms at the box office, what hope does a Star Wars-style animated flick have? None, apparently. Battle for Terra opened in May 2009 to complete audience indifference. The film earned less than $2 million in the US! That figure was so low that I initially thought it might’ve been a typo, but it’s correct.

Like everyone else, I missed Terra in theaters, but I was curious to give it a look on Blu-ray. We go to the idyllic planet Terra and meet its inhabitants. The film focuses on inquisitive young Terrian Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood). While the others are content to let the planet’s elders make their decisions for them, Mala prefers to gather her own information.

This puts her smack-dab in the middle of the action when humans come upon Terra. While the other Terrians view them as gods and willingly allow themselves to be captured, Mala fights the invasion – especially after they abduct her dad (Dennis Quaid). Mala fights off a human spaceship but ends up caring for the craft’s injured pilot, Lt. James Stanton (Luke Wilson).

Eventually the other Terrians figure out that the humans intend to take over their planet, so a war seems imminent. However, the relationship between Mala and Stanton may help change things. We watch how matters evolve between them and how this affects the impending fight.

As a fan of sci-fi action flicks – and of underdogs – I hoped to find an ignored gem with Terra. Unfortunately, all I got was a flat, emotionless piece of mediocrity. From early on, we can tell that the story will take a pretty predictable path. It essentially paints the Terrians as happy, peaceful indigenous people and the humans are war-like and domineering.

Yawn. Why do settled, content cultures always have to live like hippies, anyway? Both sides are awfully generic, and the film does little to give them life. Yeah, it does attempt some complexity on both sides, but it does so in an unconvincing way. Despite the stabs at greater depth, the two cultures largely remain one-sided and bland.

The same goes for the characters. Terra does little to provide its roles with much more than generic personality traits. This means we know little about them and care even less. If we root for the characters at all, it’s out of a general sense of obligation; we’re supposed to want Mala and Stanton to succeed, so we do.

Kinda. Sorta. Maybe. Oh, not really. The movie doesn’t boast any gray area, so it doesn’t allow us to feel any way other than one certain path. There’s no complexity, depth or heart on display here.

The lackluster animation and art don’t help. Terra would’ve looked stiff and awkward if it came out in 1999; as something from 2009, the CG work seems even more unappealing. Some of the effects work is okay, but the characters are consistently unrealistic and stilted. Much of the animation looks like it was done for a videogame cutscene, not for a feature film.

I understand that Terra was made for a very small budget, but that doesn’t mean it deserves a pass in this category; to say it looks fine for a cheap movie teeters toward patronizing “you throw good… for a girl” territory. They still charged $10 for it on the big screen, so moviegoers deserved high-quality visuals.

Terra does come with a pretty good cast, at least. You’ll not find any “A”-list names here, but I don’t regard that as a negative; too many modern animated movies rely on superstars, so I don’t miss them here, especially since the actors on display are mostly talented.

Not that you’d know from their work in Terra. Perhaps left bored by the one-dimensional story and characters, virtually all of the actors feel like they’re running on fumes here. They all sound like they’re thinking of paychecks as they deliver their lines.

There’s no reason Terra had to be a forgettable movie, but that’s what it is. Despite some weak animation, it never becomes a true embarrassment, but it simply fails to engage.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Battle for Terra appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Computer-animated movies usually look great on Blu-ray, and Terra usually followed that trend.

Don’t expect it to match up with the best-looking Pixar flicks, though. Sharpness became the film’s only slightly weak link. While most of Terra demonstrated very nice clarity and delineation, a few mildly soft images appeared. That was a relative observation, though, as the movie was a little ill-defined only when compared with the excellence of other CG films. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws also failed to pop up, as the presentation came free from defects.

Colors seemed pleasing. The flick usually went with a green earthy tone, though some reds also appeared during more dramatic scene. The hues were always full and vivid. Blacks came across as dark and tight, while shadows offered good clarity and delineation. Overall, this was a fine transfer; it just wasn’t quite as good as I expected.

Similar thoughts greeted the PCM 5.1 soundtrack of Terra. The soundfield opened up matters in a pleasing manner. Throughout the film, plenty of material emerged from the side and rear speakers, especially during action scenes. Ships and firepower swarmed around the room and created a good sense of place. The only negative came from some slightly speaker-specific material, as the elements didn’t always blend terribly well. Still, the scenes usually fared nicely, and the track added pizzazz to the adventure.

Audio quality was also good, though I thought the mix went a bit bass-happy. Low-end response tended to be somewhat too heavy and it could overwhelm the other elements at times. Otherwise, this was a satisfying track. Speech was natural and concise, and music showed good vivacity. Effects may’ve come with too much bass, but they were still clean and powerful. I thought the track just narrowly fell below “A”-level standards.

When we head to the disc’s extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Aristomenis Tsirbas, screenwriter Evan Spiliotpoulos and editor Jim May. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and performances, music and editing, budget and production challenges, the project’s origins and development, character and visual design, and a few other production issues.

Despite the presence of a fair amount of happy talk, the commentary usually proves to be interesting and informative. The participants cover a good array of subjects, and they do so in an involving manner. We get a nice look at the flick in this enjoyable chat.

A quick promotional piece comes to us via The Making of Battle for Terra. It runs four minutes, 44 seconds and includes notes from Spiliotopoulos, Tsirbas, visual effects artist Greg Domain, character animator Kevin Koch, and actor Evan Rachel Wood. We get quick notes about the story, visual effects, cast, and cinematography/animation. Given its brevity, “Making” offers a passable overview. However, it’s just too short to be anything particularly useful.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 57 seconds. We get “Forbidden Hobby” (2:12), “Some Creepy Weird Thing” (1:38), “Snow Monster!” (1:46) and “Maria’s Call to Action” (1:11). “Hobby” and “Creepy” actually do a decent job of expanding the sense that Terra is a rather rigid society; more of that might’ve helped balance out the hippie utopia it resembles in the final flick. “Monster” throws in some generic action, while “Action” further digs into human resistance. Neither adds much.

We get a short glimpse at animation stages with the 23-second From Storyboard to Final Render: Mala Sneaks Around. It breaks the screen into four quadrants so we can compare storyboards, animatics, early animation and final render all at once. It’s a good way to check out the various parts of the process.

Another clip focuses on planning work. Animatics: Mala’s Escape goes for two minutes, 14 seconds as it shows Tsirbas’s early work on the film. It allows us to compare the animatics to the final film. Once again, it provides a good way to see a planning stage of animation.

A Production Design still gallery presents 18 sketches. These show different concepts for various characters, creatures and settings. Add to that some text to inform us about the elements and this becomes a nice collection.

Finally, Aristomenis Tsirbas: Pulling the Strings runs one minute, 28 seconds. It shows Tsirbas as an animated character who tells us what animation means to him and who thanks all the others who helped make Terra a reality. The cartoon Tsirbas looks an awful lot like a Muppet, and this is kind of an odd piece.

An ad opens the disc, as we get a clip for Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. Under Also from Lionsgate, we find this same promo along with one for Terra. Is it just me or is it odd that we get a trailer for Terra on the Terra DVD and it’s placed under “Also from…”?

As a sci-fi action flick, Battle for Terra had potential to excite and delight. Unfortunately, it simply bores. It combines dull characters, a flat story and weak animation to become a thoroughly uninspiring film. The Blu-ray gives us very good picture and audio along with a collection of supplements highlighted by an interesting commentary. While I can’t complain about the Blu-ray itself, the movie disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main