A group of marines try to save Los Angeles from an alien invasion.
2011. Starring Aaron Eckhart.
How is it that aliens always know to go to major U.S. cities first?
Battle: Los Angeles was the second stop on Peter, Trevor and my movie extravaganza. We already had pretty low expectations, but unfortunately the movie wasn’t even as cool as its trailer. Battle: Los Angeles begins with 15 minutes of irrelevant exposition. Basically, aliens are landing in the ocean along LA’s shore. And they’ve pretty much already taken Santa Monica and the entire shoreline. We get some information on some of the marines, but it is completely unimportant. The first 45 minutes, unfortunately, are TERRIBLY DULL. We follow Aaron Eckhart (who retired THIS MORNING but then was immediately redeployed, how convenient) and his platoon who go behind enemy lines to make sure no child is left behind. They find the cliche scared little family and must return them to safety before the U.S. bombs the shit out of LA. Of course, they also come across Michelle Rodriguez, our favorite token lesbian in pretty much every bad combat movie since she was killed off Lost for multiple drunk driving charges. As usual, no one ever runs out of bullets and there is a lot of “hoorah”ing and back-slapping. Aside from the terrible exposition, I have 3 major problems with the film:
1. The Aliens: The most disappointing part of Battle: LA was, by far, the aliens. The aliens were boring and irrelevant. Unlike all other alien invasion movies, NOTHING was revealed or learned about the aliens throughout the course of the movie other than the fact that they’re invading the earth for its water supply. Big deal. There wasn’t anything humanizing about them (which is what usually makes an alien invasion movie interesting– if we can at least sympathize with them / understand their motives). But the aliens were actually totally unimportant to the story. You could easily have replaced them with ANY other military force, because the fact that they are aliens had no importance. We were told one or two times that the aliens were invading other major cities, but there was no attention paid to this detail, and no follow up at the end of the movie to say “the aliens are retreating from New York” or “the aliens have taken Rome.” As far as the audience is concerned, the enemy could be the Japanese or Russia or Sarah Palin’s mama grizzly army. The enemy is terribly irrelevant to the plot and we know just as little about them in the end as we did in the beginning, and that is probably the film’s Achilles heel.
2. The Location: I read a very good review of Country Strong a few months ago that noted the major problem with Country Strong is that although the movie has country music, it doesn’t actually delve into any of the themes, topics or issues surrounding the country music industry. You could have easily made the same movie with the same characters and called it Rap Strong or Jazz Strong and simply changed the city names and the soundtrack. The same goes for Battle: LA. I was looking forward to seeing my former and future home blast to smithereens by aliens, but the city of LA was minimally important and hardly featured. We saw the Santa Monica Pier and the 5. That’s about it. Really you could insert almost any other ocean side city and have had the same film. Battle: Miami. Battle: New York. Battle: Honolulu. (Possible sequels?) There was nothing important about LA that justified the film’s location other than the fact that LA is on the ocean. Big deal. Couldn’t they have at least blown up some famous LA landmarks or utilized the unique natural landscape to their military advantage or something?
3. The Style: I don’t know why crappy combat movies of the last 10 years have adopted a style of cinematography that involves hiring a cameraman with parkinson’s disease. Newsflash: The more you shake a camera, the less the audience can see what is going on. Shaking the camera does not necessarily make it more realistic. The first 20 minutes of Battle: LA didn’t even involve any battles or gunfire and yet the camera was spazzing around like the movie was Earthquake: LA. Maybe they should watch classic war movies like Apocalpyse Now or even more recently, Saving Private Ryan, which employed a camera shake during bomb explosions, but did so tastefully and appropriately, without passing around barf bags to the audience.
That being said, the last 30ish minutes of the film were entertaining and what I was looking for in an alien invasion movie: Good ole’ fashioned kicking ass and taking names. Don’t wanna spoil it for you guys, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that the movie should actually be called Aaron Eckhart saves LA. Woot woot.