Mar 12, 2011

Movies: Battle: LA

If you read my blog you've probably stumbled often enough upon me talking about my gut feelings when it comes to movies. It sounds lame, but half the time I know exactly how I'm going to feel even before the thing has started. Such was the case with Battle: LA.

I had intentionally stayed away from the hype surrounding this one, partially because - as much as I love alien invasion movies (as stated in my review of Skyline) - I don't really believe they can be good. Still, I'd seen the trailers, and for whatever reason, I expected that the movie would be a hell of a lot better than the abortion I just mentioned, and that I would simply not enjoy it. Which is exactly what happened.

Battle: LA is not so much an alien invasion story as it is just a war movie. True, you have the aliens and whatnot, but their technology is intentionally kept realistic in function if not design. Everything else - from the characters, plot and pacing to the turbo annoying yet strangely well executed shaky cam and stupidly pseudo-documentary angles - is war action material.

The story is the usual deal - aliens invade, want random resource, kick human ass a lot and then get repelled/win (you'll have to watch the movie to find out which one). A nice touch in this particular case is the fact that we have no bird's view of the events, but only what the characters - a small group of marines (including Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez) sent to extract some civilians and left to fend for themselves - can see. So, to learn more about how the bigger picture is going, we hear and see random snippets of information through radios and TVs lying around the places the soldiers are passing through.

Now, this might be just me being a foreigner, but I could barely hear half the dialogue over the explosions and shooting. Sadly, what I could hear was so mortifyingly cliche - and in that annoying "textbook cliche with exact wording" kind of way too - that I wish they would just shut up and keep shooting. Acting is more or less meaningless in a movie like that, but I'd say it was ok in this case. Eckhart is a good actor and even though there's not much to be done with this particular story, he manages.

The effects are pretty cool too. Like I said, the aliens' technology is kept under control and doesn't go overboard like in most movies of that type. They even shoot a form of bullets from their small guns, while the big ones seem to do... fireballs. The flying machines are especially cool, particularly in their engines with the dirty bursts of flame keeping them afloat. The aliens themselves are barely seen, and are more or less tentacley half-skeletons with overgrown heads (if that makes any sense). There are some awesome shots of the battlefield that Los Angeles turns into, with fire raining from the sky and skyscrapers burning, and it's mostly in those apocalyptic vistas that the money for special effects seems to have gone.

In the end, if you like war movies, you will most probably enjoy Battle: LA. In that capacity, it is decent, although it has some problems with pacing, dragging quite a bit at the beginning and during the overlong middle. Personally, I was very underwhelmed. It is well done for what it is, but what it is isn't very much. And frankly, I think it's about time movie producers moved on from the "harvesting resources" plot, because it is getting really rather stale...



  1. Nice read. For what's its worth it put me off from watching it since your view of Skyline was completely identical to mine. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks! Although I always say - watch it and decide for yourself.

  3. I just saw the movie yesterday, and agree, there's a lot of trite and cliched stuff in it. However, the fact that they basically tried to marry BLACKHAWK DOWN with aliens in LA is, in itself, interesting, and overall I think the film succeeds in what it is trying to do. The two biggest weaknesses in the film are characterization (only Aaron Eckhart's character really achieves any depth and the civilians only just barely dodge walking-plot-coupon status) and the overwrought dialogue. I think they pushed too hard in the script, and should have cut back a bit on the melodrama.

    It never fails to amuse me how America always figures out how to beat the invaders first (cf. INDEPENDENCE DAY).

    This idea would have gotten a better treatment as an HBO miniseries than a film. That way, the characters would have gotten the opportunity to become more fleshed out and developed, making the audience care about them more. A two-hour flick really isn't enough to get me to care about a squad of troops, especially if 90% of the time is spent in combat scenes.