Battle: Los Angeles movie review

To summarize, Battle: Los Angeles stars Aaron Eckhart as Sgt. Michael Nantz, an aging veteran who lost all of the men under his command on his previous deployment and is about to retire, until he’s sent on one last assignment…  to fend off an alien invasion.

If you know me, right about now you have to be wondering why I would watch such a movie, never mind see it in the theater.  First of all, I love Aaron Eckhart; secondly, I recently had the 90s stinker Independence Day in my hands, and just the memory of this movie was enough to send shivers running down my spine, so what I really wanted to gauge by watching Battle: Los Angeles was my tolerance for bad action movies, and given that these were both movies about alien invasions, I thought this would be a fair test case.

I was in my early teens when Independence Day rocked the box office and destroyed vast quantities of brain cells all over the world.  Rather than rant about how bad the movie sucks, let’s just say it’s full of cliche one liners and you’ve seen better plots on Saved By The Bell reruns.  (“I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so [sobs] scared!”  Jessie on speed is AWESOME!)  I do like that shot during the first part of the invasion where the dog has that glory shot and jumps out of the way of the explosion.  That shot rocks, but Independence Day sucked then, and it sucks now, maybe even a little bit harder by contemporary standards.  Now as I dive into my thirties, I’m ready to take a look at an action movie you can tell is ridiculous just by watching the trailer.

spoiler alert

 

Besides the plot, my biggest irk with Independence Day is the dialogue.  People are making awful jokes throughout what seemingly is the end of the world, and they’re not trying to relieve tension, they’re going for laughs.  I can forgive Will Smith for a lot, but “Welcome to earth,” or “Now that’s what I call a close encounter,” are egregious sins.  (Besides, he owes me; I sat through Wild Wild West.)  Not that it’s entirely his fault; he didn’t write the dialogue, and you probably can’t deliver those lines any better than he did, but it still sucks.

Battle: Los Angeles did a good job of not including this style of dialogue.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s still cliche and poorly written (“Take this note to my wife!”), but it’s not as bad as a movie like Independence Day.  (Or Armageddon, because when it comes to making jokes about the end of the world, you can’t do any better – or worse – than Armageddon and Independence Day.)  When it’s the end of the world, there is something really unauthentic about yelling, “Hello, boys!  I’m baaaaaaaack!” right before you sacrifice yourself to save the world, despite whether or not you had ever been abducted by aliens before.

As opposed to Independence Day, Battle: Los Angeles  give us a very limited look at the invasion going on elsewhere on the globe.  True, Independence Day doesn’t really have much in the way of scenes outside of the United States beyond TV news programs, but Battle: Los Angeles is much more focused on its core characters, which is the primary reason it’s infinitely superior to it’s 1990s counter part.  The movie is really intimate; the entire film is photographed with hand held cameras, which was great for the action scenes and totally pointless for the first 20 minutes of the film.  Once the invasion begins and our Marine heroes are on the ground (heading toward a police station in already occupied territory – the aliens in this movie do NOT screw around) to rescue civilians hiding there.  From this point on, (dialogue aside) the movie is… well, it’s like watching a good movie, or at least a good action movie.  The soldiers are running around on the streets, finding themselves the victim of sniper fire from the aliens, who have wisely positioned themselves on the roofs – this, coupled with their superior fire power, makes the Marines easy targets.  This goes on for a while, and it’s almost like you’re playing a video game.  (This would have made a MUCH BETTER video game rather than a movie.)  They finally get to the police station, call for air support to get lifted out, and predictably, as soon as the chopper gets into the air with the wounded, it gets blown out of the sky, much to the chagrin of our heroes.

And so on.  The movie is predictable, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.  Sometimes, predictability is a curse, particularly in a movie like Avatar, where you can easily think ahead of the movie, and the longer the movie went on, the farther out in front of the story you could get, until there was 45 minutes left in the movie and you’d already figured out the ending.  Like Avatar, Battle: Los Angeles was about 20 minutes too long (the first 20 minutes could be cut down to 5 minutes easily – oh, and Avatar was more like 45 minutes too long), but it wasn’t killing me like Avatar was.  Stuff was blowing up; it was fun!  I might even say that the movie is, at times, thrilling – in a thriller sort of way.  For a movie with a far fetched premise and terrible dialogue, it had an element of realism (this is mostly tied to the visuals) that Independence Day was lacking.

A few characters aside, the cast was fairly interchangeable.  There was Mr. Eckhart, who is likable and a relatively well defined character, Ramon Rodriguez as the lieutenant that you knew was going to die after the first scene he was in during the first act cliche fest, there was the guy who didn’t like Mr. Eckhart’s character because his brother had died under his command, and rounding out the Marine characters you could tell apart, there was Michelle Rodriguez as the tech expert.  Otherwise… uhm, I don’t know, there were other marines:  a guy with glasses, a guy who was from someplace overseas, a guy who had PTSD, uhm… other guys in uniforms.  There were characters that made it through the entire movie, and I had no idea who they were (or if they were any of the three guys I just mentioned), nor could I keep track of who was who from one scene to the next… but, it didn’t matter, and it reminded me of commanding a squad of guys in a video game, where it doesn’t matter who they are, you just need them to do something, and that’s the purpose these guys served – to shoot things.

The civilians they went to save at the police station were decently drawn characters; Bridget Moynahan as the veterinarian, who helped with the wounded, but most notably Michael Peña as Joe and Bryce Cass as his son, Hector, who is a GENIUS!  (I mean this kid did a great job in the movie; I don’t know what his IQ is.)  Everybody we meet who’s not in a uniform during the first act of the movie is WORTHLESS.

Essentially, Battle: Los Angeles is a solid little action movie that is about 20 minutes too long.  The dialogue is atrocious, but the visuals (and sound effects) are compelling, and its easy to care about what happens to Mr. Eckhart’s character.   the action sequences are interesting and well paced.  Sometimes, stuff blows up and this flick is a case where it’s fun to watch that happen.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on March 28, 2011, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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