Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Great Sperm Bank Robbery

Or: The Movie That Was Like A Much Shittier Version Of Avatar That Somehow Still Seemed Deeper In Terms Of Theme

I nearly forgot to review Battle For Terra, but thankfully Crowbar, a regular follower of this blog, reminded me that it was still in pending. And this film is just too weird not to talk about.

I'm not going to tear this film apart. It's not going to be a no-holds-barred-critical-beatdown as seen on such violations to my senses as Spaghetti With A Chance Of Meatballs. But as a disclaimour, this was not a good movie. In fact it was pretty lame. The ultimate issue was that it felt like a kid's movie aimed at adults, and the viewership was utterly called into question. Having gotten that out of the way, I am basically going to analyse this film and draw some interesting comparisons to James Cameron's Avatar.

Alright, so the reason I thought "The Great Sperm Bank Robbery" would be a much better name for this movie is because the aliens in it all seriously look like spermatozoa with humongous, cutesy eyes. And then they all get sieged at the beginning of the movie and whole bunches of them are captured and taken away to a huge mothership (hmm... mothership, I only noticed that just now), which from the aliens' point of view looks kind of like a giant circle floating in the sky.

Like an egg, you could say.

Okay enough on that, because although there are a lot of things here that disturbingly remind me of reproduction, it doesn't seem to go anywhere and it would probably be more important to talk about the plot of the film itself.

So basically, the plot of the film is Avatar. I'm not kidding. They kind of came out at the same time and the ideas are pretty broadly cookie-cutter Science Fiction, so I will not sound like a douche and say that they ripped each other off. What I will say, however, is that for such a shitty film (Battle For Terra is pretty shitty), it has some amazingly well-developed themes and story ideas, which actually surpass any of those found in Avatar.

For a start, the female protagonist is actually one of the aliens, which startled me. The human which comes into the story quite a bit later is seen as the support role; he is not the hero, but the sidekick, so to speak. He is saved by our alien main character, and they later operate to each other's mutual benefit. Throughout the film they become close friends, perhaps even soulmates, but not in a romantic or sexual way. They are just two sentient beings that need each other to gain a fuller understanding of life. Which is one gigantic "motherfuck you" to the "I had sex with this hot bitch and now I sympathise with their race" plot of Avatar.

The models for the humans (perhaps it's a good thing I couldn't find more of them) are frankly ugly as sin, but their humans feel a lot more human. The major exception to this rule is that of the human antagonist, a general (it's always a general). He is only slightly more fleshed out than the barbarian, racist Colonel from Avatar, which is kind of like saying he's slightly less evil than Satan.


By far the more interesting plot on show here is that of the alien secret society. Throughout the film we see a group of alien Wise Ones who govern the Spermlings and issue them orders. They are the beings who are responsible (reputedly) for the Terrans living their whole lives in tranquil peace. You know, kind of like the Na'vi from Avatar.

The difference here is that we don't get our intelligences insulted with that supposed peacefulness. It turns out the wise ones have actually been amassing weapons of war for a long time, training soldiers to use them, and have effectively been brainwashing the masses into thinking everything is okay. It turns out there is actually a streak of political intrigue here and a message that no race is completely devoid of a warlust.

A bit bleaker than Avatar? I don't know, is it really?

In Avatar we are led to believe that the Na'vi are morally infallible, and barely understand the concept of war let alone practice it, because basically the Na'vi are totally unlike humans (well, the humans who are rich and influential enough to make it to other planets, anyway) and wear necklaces made of flowers while skipping over the sunset to the beat of a Tiny Tim song. Until they suddenly take up arms and viciously slaughter the humans in a blood bath worthy of the Lord Of The Rings. Am I seriously the only one who sees the irony here? How can such a crappy direct-to-DVD film beat such a popular cashcow with the implementation of a few clever themes?


I mean, before you pull out your wallets and rush off to see Battle For Terra, be warned that the script is pretty horrendous in some ways (lots of cliché, reliance on very familiar situations and character types) to counterbalance the surprising enginuity of themes mentioned above. The graphics vary from "surprisingly good" to "bad, even for a direct-to-DVD" production. The alien faces are very expressive in contrast to the creepy, action-figure like humans. It seems for every yin that makes this film watchable, there is a yang elsewhere to put you off.

So what is the upshot of all this? Do I like this film or not?

Well no, this film isn't great and I certainly wouldn't go out and buy the DVD (thus defeating the purpose of a direct-to-DVD movie). But I was genuinely surprised and delighted by the thematic depth of the script and even a few of the characters. But I'll tell you one thing.

If Avatar, with its beautiful graphics and expertly handled 3D, and highly competent cast of talent, had the depth of theme of Battle For Terra, then it would be the greatest movie of all time. Instead what we have here are two movies that are really quite incomplete, and need each other to survive. Potent, and with great potential for vibrancy and life, but individually useless. Like a sperm and an egg or something.

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