THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
“One of the better invasion films I’ve seen in a long time.”
People sure do love a good alien invasion movie. Some of the biggest releases ever have involved aliens bum rushing the planet and causing a apocalyptic moment where humanity nearly goes the way of the encyclopedia. In fact, I’m surprised Hollywood doesn’t return to the well more often than they already do. Alien + Nearly Destroyed Earth = money.
Why not? The formula isn’t complicated. Have aliens show up and blow stuff up (especially buildings and landmarks we all cherish). We stand our ground, almost lose, but somehow manage to win in the end despite impossible odds. Easy couple hundred million at the box office. Oh, and if you can work in Jeff Goldblum, it’ll really rake in some dough. I’m pretty sure that’s why they threw aliens into that new Battleship movie. People love it (along with Liam Neeson).
With that said, I do love this genre, however, for whatever reason I never got around to seeing Battle: Los Angeles in the theaters. I wanted to. The ads looked intense and pretty sweet, but upon release, the movie didn’t exactly cause pandemonium. It came and went without significant impact. On top of that, I didn’t hear a positive review. My friends who saw it described it as “sucking a big one.” They thought it blew, that it was lackluster. A year later, I rented the thing, and now I’m convinced my friends secretly smoke meth because not only did I find Battle: Los Angeles a solid action/war flick, I thought it was one of the better invasion films I’ve seen in a long time.
What’s its competition? Independence Day? Men in Black? Battle: Los Angeles is more entertaining than most of the genre even if it isn’t the greatest cinematic creation, but it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t need to be Platoon, or Black Hawk Down, or Aliens. Not many movies reach that level of quality. Instead, it just needs to look and sound like an authentic war movie. It needs to make us feel as if we’re there with dead alien juice all over us. And that it does. The battles here never feel cartoonish nor over the top. In fact, Battle: Los Angeles is about as close to a video game/movie as any have been. It succeeds at putting us there through various angles and keeping is in the action. Bullets whiz every few sounds, adding an layer of tension that’s sometimes easy to leave out.
Also, the movie doesn’t need to be completely serious because of the subject matter, but serious enough where we believe the marines are real and are on an unique mission. Leading them is Aaron Eckhart, who’s terrific here. He anchors everyone, giving it not only a lead, but an emotional center where all other characters gravitate and rotate toward. He’s a real badass. His backstory is miminial, but no character here has an in-depth story. Why should they? We just wanna see them shoot holes through aliens. Oh, and for some reason I kept picturing Eckhart as a perfect Punisher. Maybe that’s silly, but he’d be perfect for the role. Not that that matters at all. Moving on…
The film has it flaws, but they’re more like zit-sized flaws instead of bole-sized ones. Perhaps the biggest mistake is Michelle Rodriguez. She’s a good actress and all, but God is she obnoxious. From Lost to Avatar, it’s the same damn character. Here, she plays another tough- chick who doesn’t take garage from anyone. Yeah, isn’t there another tough broad out there who could take that role?
On a different note, a technical note, it really bugged me on the difficulty of killing the aliens. At first, it took multiple men firing hundreds of rounds just to knock the thing down. Tough bastards. Later, the marines drop the ‘em left and right without effort. Yeah, I know they figured out where to hit them, but they still have body armor and all. It was annoying. Regardless, the flaws aren’t many. I read some comments that the movie was overly cheesy. Granted, it's got a few eye-roll moments, but it didn’t feel forced or out of context. In fact, it felt like authentic marine banter, not that I know what that sounds like. I can only assume. At least it wasn’t Jeff Goldblum leading them into battle with Will Smith screaming in the background. Now that would have been the definition of cheesy.