IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 116 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
Sergeant Micheal Nantz lost his platoon on a mission so applies to leave active service for a while, but is called back into action to lead a unit to Santa Monica. It seems that meteors have are landing on Earth and out of them come out aliens who want to eradicate all human kind because they need water to power their ships and mechanical bodies. Nantz and his company are to rescue some trapped civilians, but once in Santa Monica they are engaged in a furious battle for survival….
The idea of an alien invasion is an absolutely terrifying prospect, but it’s my feeling that it’s never been done totally right on film [except for perhaps the first two versions of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and they are almost separate as they feature an especially subtle form of invasion]. There’s been some fine films, from both versions of The War Of The Worlds to Mars Attacks, and I’m especially fond of the original V and the Japanese Battle In Outer Space, but I don’t think filmmakers have ever really exploited the fear, the terror, that would arise, and really use their imagination. Battle: Los Angeles certainly doesn’t. The fact that it was originally called Battlefield Earth: Los Angeles ought to give you an idea that it’s not very good, although I wouldn’t say it’s quite a turkey. Think of Black Hawk Down meets Independence Day, and you basically have it, with all the good and bad points that would come with such a combination.
After a quick Starship Troopers-style opening in mid invasion, we flash back twenty four hours, and have to endure being introduced to our set of heroes. There’s a virgin, a guy getting married, and Michelle Rodriguez doing her usual tough woman thingie, but all of this is pointless because most of this information is never referred to again. They would have been better off not bothering at all with this. There’s a fairly good build up of panic, something Independence Day also did well, with a fantastic news report bit of people on a beach being zapped and just a brief glimpse of alien things appearing in the water. hen we get on our mission, and the rest of the movie is basically a series of skirmishes. Now these are vivid and often exciting, but are partially undone by the dreaded ‘shakycam’. I’ve moaned about it before, but hey, I’m going to moan about it again. Even though amazingly I don’t like getting sore eyes and feeling sick whilst watching a film, and like to see what’s going on, I actually don’t mind it in ‘found footage’ films like Cloverfield, even if quite often those films seem stupid to me. The people filming stuff seem to be having epileptic fits! I could just about put up with it in the Bourne films even, but otherwise I find it incredibly annoying. In Battle: Los Angeles, even the dialogue scenes have the camera unable to stay still for a few seconds, and it really gives the impression of bad film-making and even took me out of the film.
Nonetheless things are just about watchble until about two thirds in when the dialogue, which was poor to begin with, starts to partially turn into really cheesy patriotic speeches, usually when somebody is dying. Now, I enjoy a bit of cheese every now and again, and don’t object to patriotism, but this movie becomes overloaded with it and goes beyond Independence Day. There’s one hilarious bit though when Aaron Eckhart, who [poor guy] is given the lion’s share of this stuff, goes on for five minutes psyching up his team and telling a young boy who’s lost his dad that he is now a Marine, than says “but none of that’s important right now”. Did writer Christopher Berkolini never see Airplane? Unless of course this was meant as a jokey reference but in that case it’s really out of place. The script is full of holes and odd things, such as why do the aliens decide to land on water? As for the aliens, their ships are quite interesting looking but themselves just look like bad CG versions of the typical machine/humanoid thing, and I think I noticed some machines from the Spielberg The War Of The Worlds in the distance! There are some shockingly poor CG helicopters and explosions too, though to compensate they are some great aerial shots of the war above the city [saying that though, you keep hearing about the air force, but you never see them except a few helicopters!. The use of sound is also good, with really effective employing of silence at times.
Eckhart actually does the best he can with his poorly written character, while everyone else fares okayish but not enough to rise above the general mediocrity. Jonathon Leiberman, whose Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning I really liked though few else did, is pretty good at pacing but doesn’t seem to really have a grip on the film. The incredibly untalented Brian Tyler was responsible for the score, with its tedious droning where a loud synthesiser is played over a small orchestra [something which I never see the point of]. This composer seems to almost entirely copy other composers [i.e. Watchmen], and here just imitates Hans Zimmer. Overall Battle :Los Angeles is just about enjoyable if you switch your brain off, but it really does have a great many things wrong with it and for much of its duration all I could think of, yet again but more than some, is “what a missed opportunity”.