Of all the things to look at in 3-D—which is a stupid technology and a waste of plastic and somehow, I feel, an insult to those of us who wear real glasses, but I will tolerate it because I must—outer space is one of the prettiest and least pointless. The opening scenes of Battle for Terra 3-D, in which the camera floats serenely in the starry vacuum, through weird astral tunnels and past immense clouds of hot pink space gas, are gorgeous on the big screen. But then, unfortch, the movie starts.
There are these aliens, see, that look kind of like Snorks and kind of like E.T. but with gross flesh ponytails and lemur eyes. They live in rustic hippie peace on a planet of amphibious hummingbirds and giant flying whales (favorite character), where technology is taboo: "Inventions not approved by the elders are against our teachings." Feisty teenage Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) fancies herself an inventress, and whips up clandestine little telescopes and things in her home laboratory (surely that's illegal, right, elders? Hellooo?). The creatures of Terra have never known war. This is supposed to make you feel emotional a little bit.
Then, one day, a big, creepy metal thing blocks out the sun. And gueeeeeess who's coming to fuck you up, space hippies? Duh! It's humans! Humans, you see, exhausted the earth—a novel premise!—and then also blew up Mars and Venus in a big war between space colonies. They've been traveling through the stars for generations looking for a new place to kick it. And Terra is it.
The humans are led by an evil general (who looks exactly like a caricature of George W. Bush and says things like, "We are human, they are alien... Us or them") and a wise and pragmatic black president ("We need time to explore, to think"). When a lone soldier (and his robot-crab-dog, voiced by a slumming-it David Cross) crashes on Terra and is rescued by Mala—OH, I JUST MADE AN OXYGEN-GENERATING MACHINE OUT OF THESE TERRA-COTTA JARS AND THIS FERN AND THIS SPACE BURLAP—the two learn a few lessons about cross-cultural understanding and space feelings and martyrdom. Blah blah blah.
The Battle for Terra 3-D is basically a movie intended to teach children what destructive pieces of shit they are. Which would be fine—humans do suck, it's true—but it's also no fun at all. And you kind of just wish they'd all blow up already. Because in space—empty space—nobody ever says, "Lock and load, people. It's crunch time."