This 2007 animated movie was one of those films that “fell through the cracks.” It received very little publicity and has now been mostly forgotten. Which is a pity, because I feel this is one of the best “message movies” I’ve seen.
To be specific, it has two messages: a pro-environmentalist one, and an anti-militaristic one. We have seen this done, in films like Avatar (the James Cameron one) but such films tend to be very one-sided- one side is Right and the other is Wrong, period- and that’s just not realistic. Also, the message tends to be hammered into the heads of the audience, instead of letting it be evident in the story.
This film takes the old “alien invasion” plot and inverts it- instead of aliens invading Earth, it’s humans invading an alien world. But although it seems at first like the militaristic humans are evil and the nature-loving aliens are victims, we soon learn important facts: the humans have no choice- they are dying and need the planet’s resources to survive. And yet, they hesitate to take over some other race’s world. Also, not only the aliens have technology themselves (unlike in most takes on this subject) but they know about war, having suffered its ravages once; they are not innocents. I like that the issues are not presently in a simple fashion, and neither side jumps to conclusions. Of course there is a villain and things eventually escalate, but this is a movie so that’s to be expected.
But the best part are actually the characters. The main ones are a human soldier and a female alien, who become friends and try to sort things out between their peoples (and no, they don’t fall in love- their friendship is based on the admiration of what each does for the other.) There’s also a wacky robot because I guess every sci-fi film must have one, but I don’t mind because of its sarcastic sense of humor. Heck, some of the best scenes are provided by it!
I also really like the designs for this film. In particular, the “drifters” as the aliens are called by the humans, are legless beings who fly instead of walking. Everything about their world is strange, yet beautiful. I wonder if these FX are the reason the film (which was originally going to be done in live action!) was done in computer animation.
About the only part of Terra I’m not completely happy with is the ending. Make no mistake, people die in this film. It isn’t a kid’s film, it had a PG rating. And yet, I agree it made sense, and gave the film even more gravitas.
If you can find this film, by all means give it a chance. Maybe you’ll like it too.
Recommended for: fans of Science Fiction, Animation, and message movies done right.