Review: Battle: Los Angeles
PLOT: A rag-tag group of marines, led by the heroic Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) defend Los Angeles after a worldwide Alien invasion.
REVIEW: BATTLE: LOS ANGELES was probably pitched to studio execs as BLACK HAWK DOWN meets INDEPENDENCE DAY, and sure enough, that's exactly what the finished product feels like. As far as alien invasion movies go, this is a pretty good one, especially coming hot on the heels of the similarly themed SKYLINE; which was perhaps the worst film of it's kind since PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.
If BATTLE: LA has one failing, it's the script, which seems like it was just cobbled together to incorporate every army/alien movie cliché in the books. You've got the war-weary Sarge, forced to play second banana to a Lieutenant who's just out of the academy and (naturally) has a pregnant wife at home. Then you've got the bright-eyed newbie whose days are so obviously numbered, they might as well have put a clock on screen counting down to his death. You've got the tough Latina chick, usually played by Michelle Rodriguez, but this time played by...err...Michelle Rodriguez. Then there's the sexy civilian (Bridget Moynahan), who's around to dress the heroic Sarge's wounds, the children in jeopardy, the nice guy medic, etc. All the clichés are here.
That said, it still didn't stop the film from being a total blast for most of it's running time. The talent that was drawn to the film, both behind and in front of the camera, more than make up for the script's major shortcomings. Director Jonathan Liebesman does a great job with the film, giving it a gritty, Ridley Scott-style feel, with lots of cool hand-held camera work and some ultra lean editing from ace editor Christan Wagner. In fact, Liebesman does such a good job, I'm inclined to forgive him for the dreadful DARKNESS FALLS. I'm not surprised he's getting a lot of hype as the next big action director off this, and BATTLE: LA really bodes well for the upcoming WRATH OF THE TITANS.
The other major ingredient that keeps BATTLE: LA from feeling too stale is Aaron Eckhart in the lead. It's nice to see a proper actor like Eckhart being given a shot as an action hero. Sometimes, when an actor of his calibre signs on for a movie like this, they end up phoning in the performance, but not Eckhart. He really gives it his all, and he makes a believably human action hero. He has a solid back-story, with him having lost his previous platoon in Iraq, and ready to call it quits, due in part to that trauma, and his advancing age. Naturally, he's pressed back into service when the shit hits the fan, and is kicking alien ass less than twenty minutes into the film.
As memorable as Eckhart is, the same thing can't quite be said for the rest of his squad, which is almost completely made up of unknown actors (and Ne-Yo), and seem more like generic military movie types, rather than full blooded characters. Once again though, that's another shortcoming of the script, and some effort is made to distinguish them early on, with each character getting a separate introduction, although it's all for nought, as I could barely tell one from the other (the only two I remember clearly are “glasses-guy” and “moustache-guy”).
Still, this is Eckhart's show through and through, and he's great. Pair his dynamic performance with a solid, “rah-rah” brass-heavy score by Brian Tyler, and a lean 112 minute running time, and you have a pretty fun flick. As for the aliens themselves, they look pretty generic, although the design of their ships and drones is pretty cool. The special effects are exceptional, with this having a lot of top-notch CGI, suggesting the film must have cost a pretty penny.
While it certainly could have used a script polish or two, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is still a slick event pic, and a good ride for action junkies such as myself. While it's nowhere near the level of something like DISTRICT 9 (which, along with INCEPTION , THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR TREK and the BOURNE'S are my blockbuster gold standards), it gets the job done, and makes for a damn solid evening of entertainment. Also- it's NOT in 3D. Hallelujah.
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