Bloodthirsty evil humans invade a peaceful alien planet in a new indie movie that turns all the classic alien invasion motifs on their heads. Terra, which just had its U.S. premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, goes from tense little alien invasion movie to war epic in mere moments. Full recap after the jump including spoilers and a new robot that should be adopted into your hearts.
Director Aristomenis Tsirbas' feature length movie was sparked from its original short (also called Terra). It begins on the planet Terra. A peaceful society of tadpole beings with large, innocent eyes and no legs inhabits a world where the atmosphere is made up of helium. The Terrians live together up high in a tree/mushroom village among flying whale-esque creatures that swim among the clouds.
Giddy, Mala, and Lt. James Stanton from Terra.
Among the mushroom homes lives the main character Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), a rambunctious young lady fighting with her father, Roven (Dennis Quaid), for the freedom to do what she wants. They get into a big argument over Mala's passion for gadgetry and he worries that her tinkering will offend the gods. Moments after the big blow out, large spaceships descend upon the Terra city capturing frightened Terrians in their green tractor beams. Some citizens scream and hide while others call it, "a miracle" and willingly hover in the ships' way hoping for capture. Mala's father is taken by one of the ships (and to think they just fought, how timely!). Eager to get her father back Mala follows one downed space craft and comes face-to-tadpole with the human Lt. James Stanton (Luke Wilson). Stanton has little air and quickly passes out, looking for answers Mala sneaks him back into her village.
Stanton was accompanied by his robot companion/helper named Giddy. This endearing little orange robot scurries on all fours with jet propeller feet and a communicator tail. Giddy is by far the best character in Terra. Voiced by comedian David Cross, Giddy is the mediator between both sides and is the only one offering logic. His robot eyes beam understanding into Mala's brain and low and behold she can speak English. After figuring out how to turn her helium atmosphere into an oxygen tent for Stanton, Mala agrees to fix Stanton's ship but in exchange he must bring her to her father.
During the whole getting-to-know-you scene, Stanton explains why all the dramatics about Terra. The human race used up all the resources up on Earth and then terraformed Venus and Mars. But it wasn't enough, a civil war started between the two planets and everything was destroyed. Now the refugees have to live on a run-down space ship called the Arc and travel the universe in search of a new planet. Too bad for the Terrians, because the humans are voting on whether or not they should colonize it — which would mean destruction for all life on Terra as they convert with their scary "transformer" spider machine the helium atmosphere into oxygen.
Meanwhile back on the Arc a power crazed General Hemmer (Brian Cox) declares martial law and decides it's in everyones best interest if the humans kill everyone on Terra and take it for themselves. Throwing the president in the brig, he begins preparing for the war at hand. Mala and Stanton make it back to Stanton's ship only to discover that the captured Terrians are being tortured. Cut to ridiculously overdramatic scene where Mala finds her weakend father only to have him take her human gun and turn it on his captors while locking Mala in another room. This of course leads to him blowing a hole in the wall and they all get sucked into space.
So Mala is now pissed and Stanton tries to explain to other humans that the Terrians are a peaceful people, but it falls on deaf ears. Mala almost dies...again, until Stanton orders Gibby to protect Mala and Gibby brings Mala back home. Back on her home planet the Terrians are mounting for war and reveal that they have high-end weapons after all, they were just kept secret. Next thing you know, both Mala and Stanton are loading up into their fighter ships and taking off for battle.
War is hell and a lot of computer animated characters die. In the midst of the battle the humans deposit the massive transformer on Terra's ground and begin to change the atmosphere of the planet. In a brave and completely out of left field move Stanton decides that genocide is wrong and drives his plane into the transformer Independence Day style, thus stopping the whole transformation process and saving the lives of Terrians everywhere. After Stanton's sacrifice it fast forwards to the future and you see that somehow humans and Terrians forgave each other and now humans live in their own little bio-dome on Terra with a giant statue of Stanton in the middle of their habitat.
The homes are beautiful, the flying whales are lovely, the characters are adorable, even the oddly shaped humans are likable but when the characters are thrust into all-out war it darkens the movie so much it's hard to believe the Terrians are willing to accept the humans living amongst them in the end. But it's a beautiful journey along the way. [Terra]