Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Battle: Los Angeles


Battle: Los Angeles is a movie I got progressively less excited about the more I heard about it. It started when, post-trailer, I realized that it's setup was a darker, nastier Independence Day. This was the setup of last years Skyline, my winner of worst movie of the year. It doesn't get any more promising with the director, Jonathan Liebesman, who's biggest movie so far was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, the prequel to Platinum Dune's remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and probably the worst movie they've put out (and that's saying something). So I was a little apprehensive going in. And I do hate it when I'm right about things like this.

The plot is devoted to aliens invading all major cities around the world, for reasons entirely unknown, and on a small squad who are trying to fend them off. That's it. No reason is ever given for the aliens invasion (although a couple are floated and promptly forgotten) and nothing is ever made of the world outside LA. It calls to mind nothing so much as someone mixing Independence Day with the America levels of Modern Warfare 2, but with all the intellect and originality sucked out.

I don't want to dwell on the script long, but I have to because it is by far the biggest offender of this movie. The movie is guilty of so many cliches, I briefly considered listing them before realizing that I'd get half a page out before I finished the cliches just used with the characters. You can see every moment of this film coming, and there's not a moment of it that wasn't done better somewhere else.

Of the actors, only Aaron Eckhart turns in a good performance. Oh sure, his character is a massive ball of overused clich├ęs just like everyone else, but he's the only one who tries to elevate it to anything else, especially in a scene near the end when he lists the men lost under his command. Yes, I can hear you rolling your eyes, but he infuses it with real emotion, and it's the closes thing I had to an emotional reaction to this movie. Unfortunately he gets dragged down by the rest of the cast, who range from lackluster to not even trying (looking at you Michelle Rodriguez, or should I say Vasquez clone).

The rest of the movie could be salvaged, and at least become dumb fun. After all, the CGI is good, and it's got a killer premise. But someone on the production team saw District 9 and decided the best way to get critically acclaimed was to make the movie dark and serious (never mind that what made District 9 great was it's screenplay, characters, story, metaphors, etc.) So 99 percent of the action sequences are disjointedly edited and shakily shot, so it's impossible to tell what's going on. The editing problems extend to the movie proper as I'm pretty sure more people get shot than are in the squad and a couple of the inevitable rugrats go into and out of the ether between scenes.

Never mind that the dark tone is COMPLETELY at odds with some of the movie. Sequences in which the entire squad are overwhelmed by a couple of the enemies or in which they desperately try to figure out how to kill them don't gel with sequences in which hovercrafts are taken out by well a placed grenade.

And it's TOO fucking long. The film skips merrily past a couple of perfectly logical ending points, continuing to throw on new problems until they hit the tacked on ending, wearing out what little welcome it had.

Look, it's a big sci-fi actioner, so it's probably too late to stop it from making money, but if you want my advice, this movie is garbage. The characters are thinly sketched cliches, the script lazy and the action confusing. Go see Rango instead, that had better action scenes. Go see The Adjustment Bureau, it's supposed to be good (I'm going to see it tomorrow). Hell, go see Red Riding Hood, that at least looks original. I could list 15 other movies that do what this movie does better, but I'm sure you can think of a few off the top of your head from my review: Rent those instead.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he is sorry this review is going up 12 hours after he saw the movie.

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