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Dry as dirt: Battle for Terra

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Battle for Terra is a new animated effort in which alien forces invade a planet, and it turns out that the invaders are, in fact, us -- that is to say, astronauts from the planet Earth. It sounds rather novel until one recalls that The Twilight Zone tackled this notion in one third the amount of time as this ambitious but ultimately disappointing feature.

Assembling the sort of all-star cast that nobody ever thinks to unite in live-action movies -- at least not since the "disaster flick" went out with the 1970s -- Battle for Terra finds James Garner, Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover, Mark Hamill and many others lending their vocal chords to this sci-fi saga in which the peaceful Terrians find their planet under attack from a spaceship that harbors the only survivors of our long-destroyed Earth. Young Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), a Terrian with a rebellious streak, watches helplessly as her father (Quaid) gets abducted by the marauders; she eventually saves a human soldier named Jim (Luke Wilson), and together they work to rescue Mala's dad. But Jim finds himself conflicted every step of the way, as he tries to help this alien creature while simultaneously remaining loyal to his commanding officer (Brian Cox), a typical U.S. warhawk who seeks to kill every last Terrian man, woman and child.

Battle for Terra is being presented in some theaters in 3-D, and that's clearly the way to catch it, as the presentation helps compensate for undistinguished voice work and a pro-environment script that feels old-hat on the heels of the far more imaginative WALL-E (speaking of which, there's even a robot who looks like he could pass for that Pixar star's brother on the assembly line). Yet most damaging of all are the Terrians themselves, who are rather flatly designed. Truth be told, they look like sperm, meaning that, as the Earthlings set about exterminating these extraterrestrial beings, I repeatedly kept thinking that the producers would have done well to borrow the name of an '80s adult classic. Then again, I don't think The Sperminator would exactly bring in the family audiences that the studio is presumably targeting.

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