Battle: Los Angeles
Reviewed by Damien Straker on March 17, 2011
Sony presents a film directed
by Jonathan Liebsman
Screenplay by Christopher Bertolini
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo and Bridget Moynahan
Running Time: 115 minutes
Released: March 17, 2011
Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is an ageing soldier who is set for retirement. In his previous tour of Iraq he was one of the only survivors in his unit and speculation surrounds what happened to his men. When an alien invasion strikes the Earth however, he is brought back into the action to help lead a group of young and inexperienced soldiers. One of them is set to be married and another is expecting the birth of his child. As the rest of the Earth seems to be defeated, Los Angeles remains as one of the last posts. With the help of some civilians including a father and son, a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan) and also TSgt. Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez), the unit works to clear out the city, moving towards an extraction point, before the area can be bombed out.
Calling Battle: Los Angeles the equivalent of a video game would be giving it too much credit. Jonathan Liebesman's irredeemable sci-fi action film is the antithesis of 2010's Monsters. This is an unoriginal, primitive and mindless recruitment video for the Call of Duty and MTV Generation. The soldiers here, armed with high powered assault weapons, don't so much act as scream grunt speak and backslap each other in a bid to look and sound cool. Take note of pop singer Ne-Yo's casting and Michelle Rodriguez as a hardened fighter. Big stretch. Video game enthusiasts would be better served sticking to the virtual battlefield because the shabbiness of this picture is one of its few surprises. Shaky cam makes an unwelcome return, with framing so ridiculously tight in the opening stages that the camera seems to be attached to the actors' heads. Later battles are so dismally over edited with rapid fire cutting, it's hard to tell who and what is being blown up. Forget about three dimensional characters or plot development; the screenwriter ditches them by the first gunfight. There is no urgency or tension as we have no one to barrack for. As a viewer you're expected to catch flies as you admire explosion after explosion after explosion.
The entirety of the film, save for some painfully rushed and cliched exposition, is made up of overlong battle sequences and standoffs. Moments of sacrifice and 'you go on without me' pleas, are unmoving and do little to compensate for the lack of narrative. Restricting the perspective of the film to a single military unit also means that there is little conception about the rest of the invasion. Only brief news headlines on the televisions give minimal information, like how the aliens are scavenging our water. Point being, the film seems more interested in being loud, rather than exploring the science, the aliens, or even the human reactions. The cynic in me suggests that you see very little of the aliens up close because of how unconvincing they are. From afar they look like they're made from scrap metal. Try not to laugh as Nantz carves one up like a Christmas ham, looking for a weakness.
What makes Battle: Los Angeles more poisonous than other incompetent action films is the increasing transparency of the film's pro-military agenda. Along with the compassionless violence, the message seems to be that you're never too young or too old for the military. Luckily, Eckhart has a face made out of granite, which must be the only way he can keep it straight when spouting embarrassing propaganda like 'marines don't quit' and telling a little boy, 'I need you to be my little marine'. I found that and Battle: Los Angeles success at the US box office (it debuted at number one) to be scarier than any alien threat. Be afraid. Be very afraid.