Battle: Los Angeles (2011) Review

This is one of those movies that comes with preconceived opinions, not because of any personal biases against actors or filmmakers by me, but because of the overwhelmingly negative reviews that accompanied its release. Before all of the bad reviews, I had been looking forward to seeing it. It was one of the films that was featured around the last San Diego Comic Convention. A restaurant/club/whatever right across from the convention center had massive Battle:Los Angeles posters draped from their balconies. But when it hit less than 10% on that tomato site, U decided not to see it in theaters.

The movie is mostly a by-the-numbers script for this genre. There is a generic quality to both the story and  the characters in Battle:Los Angeles. This is one of those films that looks like the writer(s) just watched a lot of other films of the same kind for their research. The writer didn’t display a real knowledge of the military  or what they do. What passed for any kind of tactical mission statement was “We have no idea what we’re fighting, but kill anything not human.” He/she/they also ripped off other better films, most noteably Aliens. It’s almost an insult to say that since this doesn’t come anywhere near succeeding in what that one was able to do, but the references her are obvious.

The dialogue is not even recycled from the better action films. What the actors say is rarely much longer than 7 or 8 words…. An example of the ACTUAL dialogue in a sequence:

“Where’s that artillary? Should’ve hit by now!”

“Doc!”

“Yes!”

“Imlay! Imlay! Rrrghh…Unf…”

“Incoming!”

“Yes! Santos, we got it! We got it!”

“Direct hit! Direct hiiiiiit!

“Staff sergeant, you did it!”

“Yes, we got it!”

“The strike package? It went through? it came through?”

“Yeah! All right, Kerns!”

“It’s over.”

“It’s coming up. It’s coming up.”

“They’re trying to get away.”

” The thing can fly staff sergeant. It’s flying now!”

“I’ll get you out!”

“We gotta’ protect the laser. Come on. Come on!”

“Santos!”

“Sonuvva’—! Yah! That hurt!”

“Cover me Lockett!”

And so on… so forth…. On.. and on… and on… and on… and ON…of mono-syllabic short sentences. The dialogue doesn’t even have cliched dialogue it’s so vanilla. I have to admit that I would have even been happy with a “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit…” The words spoken in the film are almost always telling the audience exactly what’s happening onscreen. “They’re retreating.” (They were). “Advance!” (They do).

The story itself was as flimsy as wet paper. It’s not hard to figure out where the movie is going. Usually, even a terribly written film would at least wait until there’s a tense situation before past sins  (that will be redeemed) are revealed. Almost immediately, Eckgarts Sgt. Nantz is revealed to be retiring, receives feigned respect by his fellow soldiers having lost his men on an unnamed combat mission, and goes along for the ride with a unit he’s been training. It’s  not hard to figure out that he will soon be in charge of the unit to redeem himself. They even make the mistake of showing Nantz perform  superhuman-like heroics to win the respect of the unit. I think after realizing that they had another hour to fill, they immediately made one of his actions misread by the remaining survivors to get him back on the side of the misjudged underdog.

The characters had the distinctiveness of saltine crackers. Aaron Eckhart is an upper echelon actor. I thought that long before he appeared in the Dark Knight where it seems he was introduced to general audiences. He does about the best that he can do with the material. There are some other recognizable actors, but they aren’t given a lot to do. Michael Pena is a pretty good actor, also, but he’s given a surprisingly small part. His role was nothing that could have been performed by an extra.

The very lovely (and talented) Bridget Moynihan (who was wronged by that dirtbag Tom Brady… I’m here for you Bridget) is barely in the film.  They don’t even use her as the love interest. Michelle Rodriguez is only  distinguished by the fact that she’s playing that hard-nosed tough chick… again (has she ever played a character that WASN’T a hard-nosed tough chick?).

The writer and director are single-minded in their interest to show interchangeable scenes of CGI aliens (and their advanced weapons) exchanging gunfire with the Marines. Even when they capture an alien, the best that they can come up to do with it is to literally tear it apart to find out how to kill it. The aliens are also disappointingly generic. The FX team that was working on this film, also produced a similar alien invasion (Skyline) that arrived in theaters four months earlier. I haven’t seen Skyline, but judging from this, I wonder if they saved the best stuff for their own film. A lot of the CGI looks like it was  inserted by CGI. The worst moment was a car that flips over and crushes a soldier. It looks like it was rendered by some high school kid that just got After Effects for Christmas. I know they’re suing those guys now. I think it’s deserved.

I’m just happy I didn’t pay top dollar for the lemon, for once. I perused the movie-car lot and saw Battle:Los Angeles. I kicked the tires (like a rube) and decided maybe this one wasn’t for me. I had heard quite a few customers complaining about this one. After viewing it via the equivalent of the police auction (redbox) I realized I had made a good call on this one. I still paid for it, but I don’t feel like I was suckered by paying for theater ticket prices (and those 7 dollar cokes and  9 dollar small bags of popcorn that I finish before the trailers finish playing.

This is the worst film I’ve seen so far this year, but it wasn’t so bad as much as it’s appallingly bland. It was boring and never built anything that even resembled tension. It has more in common with alien invasion video games than to other alien inavasion films.  The extraterrestrials, don’t seem to have any kind of  strategy other than to wander onscreen firing its weapons when the Marines need something to yell and shoot at. There IS a ‘support the troops’ message heavily buried in the mess. Itt’s just too bad the sentiment is in such a dog of a movie.

The way it’s going, I won’t have to make ‘Best Of’ and ‘Worst Of’ lists at the end of the year. It’ll just be my ’10 Most Mediocre Films of 2011′. I haven’t seen too many great films, yet.

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