Battle for Terra
May 1, 2009
It’s a little difficult for me to be objective on this one. I get excited about pretty much any CGI animated film that comes out. I’m not just talking about the Pixars here, everyone gets excited about those. And the DreamWorks Animation films, which are not works of genius like Pixar, but solid efforts. Then there’s Blue Sky. With the exception of Horton, I dislike them all. And then we get to the other ones like Bolt, Happy Feet, Monster House, etc. I’ll see them all. And for that matter, I’ll see most any sci-fi project as well. I know most of them fail, but I’m there anyway. So a film like Battle For Terra is right up my alley.
Battle For Terra has something to do with the remains of the human race threatening to wipe out the inhabitants of Terra by colonizing the planet. As a wild-eyed liberal, even the environmental themes appeal to me. The problem is that animated sci-fi rarely does well, nor do preachy agenda films.
Take a look at 2000’s Titan AE, for example. With a budget of $75 million, Titan was only able to bring back just under $23 million. Or the almost legendary 2001 failure, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It only made $32 million back on a $137 million investment.
Now I know, I know, WALL-E did well for Pixar, grossing $223 million, and Disney’s Lilo & Stitch pulled in $145 million, but those films had brand recognition in the Pixar and Disney names. Terra has Lionsgate. If you’re looking for films involving a serial killer forcing you to self-mutilate in order to save your life, Lionsgate is the go-to distributor. For an agenda laden sci-fi epic, you’d better get a more trusted name in animation.
Some animated films draw an audience through star power. Shrek would have done well under any circumstances, but having Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz attatched certainly didn’t hurt. Happy Feet owes much of its success to Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. Toy Story was a novelty in its day, and it has Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Bolt has John Travolta, Ice Age has Ray Romano, and so on.
Terra’s got quite the talented cast in Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox, Amanda Peet, Luke Wilson, David Cross, James Garner, Chris Evans, Justin Long, and Dennis Quaid. That’s the type of layered casting that might turn a smaller indie into a sleeper Oscar nominee. It’s not the type of casting that would allow yet another computer animated film to rise above the rest and become a hit.
And then there’s the theme of the film. Agenda films rarely do well, unless they disguise those agendas well. Babe is a good example. It’s pretty much an animal rights tract, but the film’s brilliant inventiveness overshadows the theme. Then there are films like Dead Man Walking. We all know Tim Robbins is anti-death penalty, but he presents such a balanced view of the issue, it really doesn’t feel preachy. Terra just reeks of environmentalism. Like I said, I’m liberal, I agree with the film’s argument, now stop telling me how to think!
Look, I’m excited. I want to see animation. I want to see aliens. I even like the environment. I think I’m going to be alone in the theatre when I see Battle for Terra. (Martin Felipe/BOP)