Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles [film review]

* Released theatrically in March; DVD and Blu-Ray release TBA
I figured it best that I write a review of this one as soon as possible, as Battle: Los Angeles (known overseas as World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles) felt like one of those movies that slides from your brain within a day or two of seeing it. No, I did not have high expectations for the film, but I was in the mood for some mindless entertainment and it aptly served its function as a decent sci-fi action flick.
The plot, such as it is, centres around a small Marine platoon that is deployed when aliens start dropping from the sky off the coast of Los Angeles and numerous other highly populated coastal cities worldwide. The aliens need our water for some unspecified purpose and apparently it's a scarce commodity in the rest of the solar system. The platoon is given a mission to rescue civilians trapped inside a police station in Santa Monica, before the military carpet bombs the crap out of the area in an effort to contain the invasion.
An obligatory introduction to the platoon members and some of their backgrounds is kept mercifully short at the beginning of the film (just 10 minutes), providing an early confirmation that yes, your instincts were right: this one will most certainly not be up for best screenplay at next year's Oscars. The characters practically roll off of a worn out war/action movie character assembly line, compiled from some element of the following clichés: the green rookie, the green platoon leader (who practically has "will die before the end credits roll" tattooed on his forehead), the mentally fragile soldier, the guys who are either about to get married or whose partners are about to have a baby (meaning they have everything to live for!), the grizzled veteran who is just about to retire, the guy in search of redemption, and hey, it's a multicultural group, too! Add in Michelle Rodriguez to balance out the PC quotient, as she turns in yet another badass-chick-who's-as-tough-as-the-guys role. Star Aaron Eckhart, as Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, certainly looks the part of a soldier and action hero, with his square jaw and cleft chin. He acts as a solid anchor for all the nonsense he's surrounded himself with, which is exactly what the film needs.
Director Jonathan Liebesman and the script he's working from cling safely to the genre guidelines as required, relying heavily on special effects (which are quite good) and loud explosions to distract us from the fact the movie has precious little more to offer. There are some clumsy, ill-advised attempts at injecting an emotional core into the proceedings with a subplot involving a civilian and his son, as well as an overload of jingoistic "hoorah!" Marine-pride moments that will make you question whether or not the U.S. Marines had a role in bankrolling this film. Liebesman uses the now-standard documentary-style handheld camera technique, which can be annoying with its constant movement, but not so much it takes you out of the movie. He also borrows a page out of Spielberg's Jaws book, initially playing coy with how much of a full view the audience gets of the aliens. Unfortunately, when we do get a clear look it's somewhat of a letdown, since they're faceless creatures which turn out to be rather lacking in the personality department.
Want a well-told story with a semblance of logic? Look elsewhere, like Cloverfield, District 9, or even the recent War Of The Worlds remake. I'm still trying to figure out how a big budget movie with "Los Angeles" in the title managed to provide such scant visual representation of the city it's supposed to be taking place in (there's nary a glimpse of a crumbling Capital Records building or even the Hollywood sign).
Rating: ★★★★★

2 comments:

  1. Shouldn't the grade be much worse seeing as how much you trashed this?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not really. I took it for what it was: a lightweight popcorn movie.

    ReplyDelete

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