I’m pretty sure the person that cut the trailer for Battle: L.A. should get an award. Or perhaps a medal. Why? I was really excited to see this. It totally sold me. Like a magic bean, but without the magic.
I’m pretty sure the person that cut the trailer for Battle: L.A. should get an award. Or perhaps a medal. Why? I was really excited to see this. It totally sold me. Like a magic bean, but without the magic. The trailer is intense, kinetic, and full of awesome battle sequences. It’s kinda like the Normandy invasion part of Saving Private Ryan but against aliens. Perhaps more accurately, it’s a Third-person shooter. But someone else is playing it.
Simple enough premise: meteors fall to Earth that turn out to be alien craft that unload lots of alien soldiers on the California coast. The U.S. military are sent in to defend and try to get any civilians out. This proves to be more complicated than first planned. Mayhem ensues. Even more simply: Aliens Attack Earth.
And of course, the action and effects are great. It really is nearly mayhem onscreen. Lots of intense stuff going on; gunfire, explosions, yelling and shaky camera work. And if you can get a chance to watch the aliens and their behavior, you’ll even notice a few things that are kind of original and interesting about them. At least someone went to the trouble to give them a certain degree of character, because you won’t get much else. We never get any insight about them; they’re just here to take over. That’s not necessarily bad; it certainly streamlines your story to focus on the personalities and challenges of your human cast, which is really what this is about anyway. Unfortunately, we don’t really get any particularly interesting, let alone compelling, information about our human cast either.
And here is where Battle: L.A. really disappoints. Your cast of military is like a bunch of cardboard cut-outs from every war movie made in the last 25 years. You got the sergeant that lost some men on his last mission. Of course everyone has doubts about him leading a team despite an otherwise exemplary record full of medals. Of course you have the one guy about to get married, one is really green and nervous, one goes kinda berserk, one is shown early on in the military therapist’s office (which strangely goes nowhere). These characters are so cliched that you keep thinking, “Oh, that character was so good in Black Hawk Down”, or “Hey that character was brilliant – in Full Metal Jacket!” All this leads, of course, to a complete lack of concern for these people even as they are predictably and systematically picked off.
Aaron Eckhart is fine as the protagonist sergeant that eventually must lead this group of soldiers and civilians to safety. But then, he just does the best he can with what is written. This goes the same for everyone, really. Michelle Rodriguez shows up playing – every tough woman with a gun character she’s ever played. They are all competent delivering a great deal of beige dialogue. One of the civilians is played by Bridget Moynahan and for the most part she’s fine, if not completely wasted in this. However, there are a couple of her lines that pass the threshold of beige and enter the realm of Laugh Out Loud. And then later, we are treated to another over-used speech from Eckhart. I’m sure they all had their hearts in the right place, they just should have had a little more pride and asked to have some lines rewritten.
Oh, and the music is ever-present, bombastic, and over the top. Frankly, there should have been scenes with no music at all. That would have been more dramatic. But here the music is huge, which makes you feel like they’re trying to trick you into thinking you care more about these people than you really do.
Battle: L.A. feels like a summer movie that got pushed from last year to March because someone figured a movie that feels this big won’t have any competition. And in a way, that’s a sound theory. This feels like a big blockbuster sort of thing. It doesn’t have the A-list stars, but it does have the soulless script devoid of emotion that is replaced entirely by cliche’, explosions and cool CG effects. And indeed, there is a target audience for that. If you can turn off your brain and not worry about the lack of human aspect, and you can just enjoy the action for what it is, then this is for you. Or if you like to watch other people play cool video games, then this is for you. Hello, bored ten year olds.
If someone had given this a fairly full rewrite, then this would have been pretty cool. As it is, it’s just eye candy and action. And only because the action is pretty cool, I’ll give this a generous 2.5 kittenhands. Maybe check it on DVD, but I don’t know about paying 12 + bucks for it. Play Call of Duty with your friends instead. You’ll care more about them than this cast. At least, I assume so. Actually, you’ll likely care more about fragging them. Ok, play with your Star Wars action figures. Those I KNOW you’ll care about more. 🙂
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, sadly duped by Hollywood industry mediocrity once again.