Archive for March, 2011

Review: “Battle: Los Angeles”

Battle: Los Angeles can best be summed up by it’s title: it’s a battle in Los Angeles. To be a little more detailed, it’s the best videogame movie not based on a videogame. It’s what I expected going in, and it’s exactly what I got. And I was not disappointed.

This flick is being touted as an alien invasion story shot like Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, only with far less plot and more shooting. The script is as if an 8-year-old wrote it while playing with his G.I. Joe’s. There are stereotypes, clichés, and war movie conventions all over the place. On many levels, this movie is average at best. At worst, it’s mindless drivel that could be looked at like a Marine recruiting video for the Call of Duty generation. They yell a lot of military jargon and shoot at aliens that look like they were designed by an intern at ILM (no offense to interns at ILM).

Now that the negative is out of the way, I’ll try my best to explain why I had such an awesome time with Battle: Los Angeles. If you’ve seen any of the trailers, and this movie doesn’t interest you, you’re obviously not the target audience. However, if you love videogames (specifically shooters like Call of Duty), and the thought of watching what is essentially a 2-hour videogame cutscene excites you on some base level, then by all means, watch this movie. In the theatre. With as full of an auditorium as you can.

As mentioned before, the plot is almost non-existent. I say “almost” because what narrative there may be is held together by so many clichés it’s almost a parody. Aaron Eckhart plays Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, a 20-year-veteran who recently had some rough time in Iraq. “Rough” would be an understatement, because some of his men died because of a decision he had to make. Now, right before his retirement from the Corps (because movies like this need the grizzled, decorated veteran who’s about to retire as the shit hits the fan), he’s assigned to a platoon full of rookies, led by a lieutenant fresh from OCS. The unit is made up of even more war film stereotypes like the guy who’s about to get married (played by R&B singer Ne-yo), the 17-yeard-old kid right out of high school, and a bunch of others who are only important as cannon fodder for the aliens.

Oh, and they also run into an Air Force Technical Sergeant (Michelle Rodriguez) who has some vital intel regarding the aliens, and a group of civilians hiding out in the middle of the warzone. The Marines’ job is to go into the populated areas of Los Angeles and get as many civilians as they can to the safe zone near the Santa Monica airport before the Air Force levels parts of the city that are already overrun.

When the action starts (roughtly 10-15 minutes into the movie) it doesn’t stop. Let me reiterate: IT. DOES. NOT. STOP. When I said this was like a videogame, I meant exactly that. You’ve got corridor shooting parts, on-rails segments, mini-boss fights, and a final boss fight where I was surprised . . . no, shocked that the weak point the Marines had to hit wasn’t glowing orange or something. And all of the action scenes are strung together like levels in a game. When the action hits, it hits hard. There are lots of close-ups, shaky Steadicam shots, and quick cutting. It’s like director Jonathan Liebesman and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin had never heard of a tripod or a wide shot before.

The icing on the cake for this flick is all the hoo-rah moments, those brief scenes where the music becomes very somber and our heroes are on the verge of death, only to snatch victory from the jaws of almost-certain defeat at the last possible second. I’m not trying to make this movie more important than it really is, but I think that we need more moments like this nowadays. With all this political infighting and Americans pointing fingers at other Americans over who caused what to happen, it’s nice to see people uniting behind something, cheering someone on, even if it is all made up. That’s what I saw in the audience when watching this movie: people applauding at the appropriate moments, cheering when the enemy ‘boss’ was defeated.

Battle: Los Angeles is the kind of movie that you take away exactly what you bring into it with. This is not an ‘intellectual, thought-provoking’ film. I’ve read it described as ‘District 9 without the brains.’ I’d say it’s more like ‘District 9 without the commentary and more muscle.’

8/10

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March 12, 2011 at 9:51 am Leave a comment


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