Imagine a perfect movie hybrid where every cliche you ever saw in a war film and every cliche you ever saw in a disaster film were combined into one super movie that contained them all. That movie would be called Battle: Los Angeles.
I wondered when the awesome trailer came out for this movie, why they were releasing in the winter wasteland, where studios dump their bad movies and not in the summer when these types of big budget blockbusters are seen. The answer is because the winter wasteland is where it belongs.
Battle: Los Angeles is essentially what Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan would be like if they were moderately entertaining alien movies. Los Angeles is just one of the many cities these aliens have invaded in an attempt to take over the world. Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Rabbit Hole) is the leader of a platoon of marines sent into Santa Monica to find civilians and get them out. He's joined by pop star Ne-Yo and Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Machete) , and they shoot and blast their way through the city to safety.
It's as simple as a story can be and I mean that in the strictest sense of the word. It's written with such military precision because screenwriter Christopher Bertolini (The General's Daughter) used to be a marine. However his experiences and attention to detail on accurate military jargon has made him overlook what makes a movie compelling...feeling. You feel nothing for these characters. And the scenes that do make an attempt to tug at your heartstrings are so melodramatic and silly that day time soap operas wouldn't air them.
However, director Jonathan Liebesman (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Darkness Falls) does his best to give the movie a feeling of integrity despite the silly script. Practically the entire film is shot with handheld cameras and gives it a very "on-the-ground" feel. At first the sets seem really fake and a total Universal Studio's Backlot Tour but they do get more incredible as the film builds to the climax.
But, for me, the choice of aliens was a huge mistake. They are more mechanical than organic and that doesn't make me feel like they're as much of a threat or real for that matter. Last year's District 9 proved that even the silliest looking aliens could still show menace and emotion by being more organic. Battle: Los Angeles made me feel like they were fighting robots or terminators or something and never once did I buy into the fiction.
Battle: Los Angeles is shot in a way that makes it seem a lot more exciting than it really is. There are no thrills in it because the story didn't have any. But the cinematography makes it appear suspenseful and dangerous. Just make sure you avoid this film if you get motion sickness...or if you don't want to waste your money.
Battle: Los Angeles (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-
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