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Battle for Terra 

Alien Worlds: The animated Battle for Terra is heartfelt, if preachy.

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We see a beautiful jewel of a planet, with alien invaders swooping down to steal precious resources. Oh, but look at that: It’s humans as the malevolent alien invaders in the CG-animated Battle for Terra, and that makes for a nice switcheroo.

We see most of the events of Terra through the eyes of Mala (the voice of Evan Rachel Wood), a native of the planet dubbed Terra by the ark-shipload of Homo sapiens just arrived in orbit. In a sort of twist on Enemy Mine, Mala—who lives in a culture that worships life, eschews war and appears to love music and art and aesthetics—rescues a human fighter pilot, Jim Stanton (the voice of Luke Wilson), who crashes during an attack on Mala’s city. An uneasy form of friendship ensues, which can only lead to understanding, sympathy and all sorts of nice feelings, certain to doom any attempt to dominate by force.

I won’t overplay this: Terra is more than a wee bit preachy in its insistence on playing up how the humans have destroyed their home world by gobbling up its resources and how the (to us) alien Terrans are so sweet and kind and nice and lovely in the way they live in perfect harmony with nature. I’m wholly approving of such sentiments, and still, I have to say: Was the sledgehammer necessary?

But the heartfelt authenticity of director Aristomenis Tsirbas and his screenwriter, Evan Spiliotopoulos, cannot be denied, and it more than overcomes whatever storytelling faults their approach has. They’ve given us a movie that is gentle in a way that we hardly ever see, a movie that asks us to consider that human needs, as imperative as they are, should not be seen in black-and-white.

There are shades of gray that must be acknowledged, and they can be just as effective as the all-or-nothing approach that is so often the option of first resort.

BATTLE FOR TERRA

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Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson
Rated PG

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