Fire in the sky

Plot no match for visuals in 3-D message flick

Battle for Terra
Studio: Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions
Rated: PG
Cast: Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox, James Garner, Chris Evans
Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas (II)
WorkNameSort: Battle for Terra
Our Rating: 3.00

Anything mistaken for a new god in the sky can't be a good thing, especially if it's big enough to blot out your planet's light source and whirs from a distance with the ominous growl of a souped-up Hoover. One spritely little alien in the 3-D animated adventure Battle for Terra, however, isn't drawing up plans for the temple just yet. Instead, she putters up for a closer look at the mysterious, churning orb reflecting in her eye. Thus begins the story director Aristomenis Tsirbas calls his 'reverse invasionâ?� tale: It's the humans who are poised for the hostile takeover of an unsuspecting planet.

Once you get past that planet's natives, the Terrians, looking and moving like magnified sperm ' especially when they're in a hurry ' they're just the sort of wide-eyed creatures you'd never want to see suffer (think blinky baby seals). The humans, for one, don't think so; they've exhausted Earth's natural resources, accidentally blown up their own planet and languished for generations on a massive, aging spacecraft in search of a new home.

Despite their creepy, boxy-jawed quasi-realism, the humans aren't all bad. After Jim Stanton (voiced by Luke Wilson) crash-lands on Terra, alien Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) takes him in, and Stanton slowly sees the ethical dilemma of his mission. He does little to impress this on his fellow humans, though, and the story line remains overly simplistic. Beyond Mala and Stanton's interactions, the audience is not granted much exposure to personal elements on either opposing side, which robs the plot of richer scenarios that kids would likely be savvy to.

Battle for Terra makes a visually sophisticated break from the usual kid-fare, but the filmmakers have neglected to up the ante in any other respect.

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