“Battle: Los Angeles” Review
As Jim McKay once said at the Munich Olympics, “Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.” Well, my greatest fears have certainly been realized as of now. The film that I have been following, intently, through its entire brilliant publicity campaign and have been anticipating greatly…well…pretty much blows. I suppose it could have been worse, but I prefer not even to think like that.
The story is what it is, although I was really hoping there would have been some more to it. Aliens from another world in the form of meteors crash into the shorelines, interrupting surfing season, for sure. Once the military figures out what’s going on (which takes about two minutes of plot and character development), they mobilize to combat the threat. However, go figure, they’ve underestimated their foe and soon, its up to a tiny group of surviving soldiers to put those pesky aliens in their places and somehow take out practically an entire army which is bigger, better and smarter than they are. Look at what I’ve gone and done. I couldn’t even get through the plot synopsis without tearing into this movie.
What a mess. What a big sorry mess. This movie is trite and incompetent on so many levels, that its shortcomings are the scariest aspect of it. It wants to be so many things: “Independence Day,” “Black Hawk Down,” “War of the Worlds” and “District 9.” None of them does it even come close to. There is so much that could have come out of this film and so many directions the creators could have taken it. Instead, the simplest measures were taken and the result does not even qualify as second-rate.
Aaron Eckhart isn’t horribly cast as the fearless leader. Him, and the rest of the cast, are simply pegged into cliched character roles. There’s the fresh, young officer with a pregnant wife. There’s the fearful rookie facing combat for the first time. And who could live without the courageous soldier trying to live up to the memory of a fallen family member who also served? Finally, there is Eckhart’s Staff Sergeant Nantz, as gung-ho and red-blooded a hero as one can find, in other words, probably the least humanistic individual to be found in the film.
The script is one of the worst I’ve seen portrayed on screen in a long time. It is chock full of so many war movie cliches and stereotypes that it could even make Samuel Fuller laugh out loud. There is poor character development on all fronts. The characters might as well have been titled “Soldier #2” or “Helpless Little Girl #1.” Actually, let me rephrase. With the stories given for these characters, they’d have been BETTER OFF being given anonymity. The writing also features what is potentially the corniest, most laughable speech ever given by a leader addressing his troops, and that tops quite a long list.
The technical aspects of the film nearly equal to, if not surpass, the content’s horrid taste. The cinematography is lazy and uncoordinated. I’m as big of a fan of handheld realism as the next man, but when used with a purpose. This film looks like someone handed a camera to a two year-old and let them run around and shoot the apocalypse. It’s hard to believe that any storyboarding or preconception was taken when planning this film out and the result is nearly a complete lack of memorable shots. The sound design is less a supportive tool to the film and more of a sensual assault on the viewer. Finally, the music is a sloppy concoction of boring tones, alternating between either exciting or not, without a single original theme to be heard, throughout. I guess some credence must be given to the production design and CG teams for successfully tearing the city apart, but after a while, it just becomes routine and uninteresting.
Without a doubt, the biggest flaw of the film, and a good note to end on, is the film’s refusal to take an in depth look at its main topic: an alien invasion of the planet Earth. Say what you want about films like “Independence Day,” “War of the Worlds” and “Signs.” They at least had the creative perception to give a bit of insight into just what such an event would really mean for the world. “Battle: Lost Angeles” lacks any kind of nuance pertaining to the inevitable societal ramifications of another race colonizing the planet. In a movie like this, I want to see more than Marines being deployed, crumbling buildings and a few dead civilians in the street. I want to feel the pangs of sheer terror at the thought of our world being irreparably torn apart. Not addressing the socio-emotional factors that come into play during a story such as this, quite frankly, relieves the film of any true form of interest, entertainment, or most importantly, credibility.
GRADES: D * / * * * * * 2.2 / 10.0