Humans are the villains and floating tadpole aliens are the good guys in Battle for Terra, a bizarre, preachy pro-peace animated adventure. The film’s tagline may as well be “Can’t We All Just Get Along?,” since Aristomenis Tsirbas’s film seems to scream the sentiment in every frame, all of which have been drawn with an uneasy blend of photorealism (the humans’ ships and machinery, as well as the opening galaxy panoramas) and cartoonishness (in everything else). 3D technology certainly provides the proceedings with a bit more visual depth, but otherwise, this hybrid of Star Wars, WALL-E, and—in its reverential sky whales—Star Trek IV is a shallow sermon masquerading as a tweener-targeting thrill ride.
Having exhausted Earth’s resources and then obliterated the planet during a war with colonized Mars and Venus, the race’s remaining survivors now travel the solar system in a rapidly decaying space station, and target Terra as their last chance for a permanent home. While the Terrians have, after years of war, transformed themselves into a peaceful race in touch with nature (and beholden to the commands of autocratic religious leaders), man is typified by military lunatic General Hemmer (Brian Cox), who argues that a Terrian genocide is acceptable and necessary (us or them!) in order to secure mankind’s survival. When human pilot Jim Stanton (Luke Wilson) crashes on the foreign planet and is befriended by female Terrian Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), the two form a pseudo-romantic affinity for each other that holds the key to preventing Hemmer’s proposed holocaust.
Make whatever you will of this allegorical tale about bloodthirsty Caucasians attempting to obliterate innocent colored-skin aliens, whose moralizing conversations attempt to impart hot-button weight and yet wholly fail to suggest cogent real-world parallels. Which, for better and worse, leaves most of the emphasis on the specific wham-bang narrative at play, which is so tonally leaden, bumpily paced, and just plain weird—things end with a heroic kamikaze mission, for crying out loud—that it’s tough to imagine kids and/or animation enthusiasts not just waiting to satisfy their CGI fixes with next month’s Up.