Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
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Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo, James Hiroyuki Liao, Bridget Moynahan, Noel Fisher, Adetokumboh M'Cormack, Michael Peņa, Michelle Rodriguez, Neil Brown Jr., Taylor Handley, Joey King, Lucas Till, Jadin Gould, Joe Chrest, E. Roger Mitchell, Rus Blackwell, Susie Abromeit, Brandi Coleman, Elizabeth Keener, Jessica Heap, David Jensen, Stacey Turner, Tom Hillmann, Lena Clark, Taryn Southern, James D. Dever, Will Rothhaar, Jim Parrack, Todd Cochran, Bryce Cass, Kenneth Brown Jr., Jamie Norwood, Todd Cochran, Nzinga Blake
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|Movie Review by Jarrod |
March 17th, 2011
'Battle: Los Angeles' may be the worst alien invasion movie I have ever seen; it is a $100-million disaster, a whirlwind of soul-sucking chaos and pointless bombast, noisy, apathetic, amateurish, and completely brain-dead. The whole production would likely collapse with the introduction of a single valid thought or idea. There is nothing meaningful or fun here.
It borrows heavily from Independence Day, Starship Troopers, and even War of the Worlds, in crafting a paper-thin plot about marines fighting against a bunch of vicious extraterrestrial invaders. They have apparently arrived to drain Earth of its water supply, and begin obliterating cities across the globe in pursuit of that goal. Or that is what can be gathered from snippets of television news coverage.
Standing against them is a stalwart squad of seasoned soldiers stationed in Santa Monica, led by Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), and his second-in-command William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), joined later by Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez); they head off into the war-torn streets of Los Angeles to engage their otherworldly enemies, eventually discovering a group of civilians they intend to lead to safety. If anything, the movie is a pitiful exercise in jingoistic drivel; there are maybe 200 words of dialogue throughout the picture, and most of those are patriotic slogans, surrounded by monosyllabic exclamations.
The characters have their names briefly flash onscreen, with perhaps ten seconds of development allotted for each before they are released into the carnage, where they become indecipherable stick figures holding guns and wearing helmets and uniforms. Faces are blurred, rarely able to be told apart, and personalities are sacrificed in favor of bland conformity, and aggressive heroism.
This is especially true in the case of the bulky, scarily masculine Michelle Rodriguez, who fearlessly jumps into conflict, trying to prove something perhaps to her male comrades. It is hard to imagine how people with so much money and studio support could take a typically cut-and-paste, rigidly formulaic sci-fi subgenre like this and screw it up so badly. I did not expect originality, but I did expect reasonably competent and even mildly stylish execution. Director Jonathan Liebesman deserves most of the blame, as he does try to imitate Michael Bay a little too much, envisioning big action set-pieces that are just empty, incoherent CGI spectacles, made worse by the constantly shaky camerawork of Lukas Ettlin.
On the one hand, the experience is akin to watching someone play a video game, though it never achieves that vital sense of immersion, and instead becomes boring and repetitive, with no forward momentum; it grinds to halt with every shootout, as the military opens fires on yet another batch of poorly designed metallic creatures, traipsing through smoke-filled exterior locations and dark, deserted buildings.
Some may praise the lack of ideas (no scientists trying to determine what the aliens want, no politicians wringing their hands about the situation, and the big decisions to be made in the midst of the onslaught), and the straightforward commitment to the action that litters every frame, but should the action at least not be comprehensible, even if it attempts to convey a sense of disorientation and confusion in the heat of battle; visually, it tries, unsuccessfully, to evoke the likes of Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan in the staging of the combat sequences.
Aaron Eckhart does the best he can with the role of Nantz, who has something in his past that is mentioned only in passing, and flavors how the other characters react to him, and his assumed leadership. Eckhart does add some much-needed vigor coupled with a degree of genuine weariness that makes his performance about the only worthwhile component of the entire picture.
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