I love alien invasion movies. So after seeing the very cool trailer for “Battle: Los Angeles” (directed by Jonathan Liebesman,) I was anxious to see the film. Unfortunately, the trailer contained all of the highlights from the movie, and it was all downhill from there.
It’s Los Angeles 2011. There are news reports of meteors heading toward Earth. But soon we discover that these aren’t meteorites splashing down off the coast. They’re alien invaders who have decided to take over the planet and use our water. The U.S. military is fighting back, but these are tough aliens, hard to kill. The movie follows a Marine platoon and a few civilians (played by Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo and Michael Pena) as they do battle with the aliens, fight to survive and save the planet. Sadly, this summary is all you get in terms of a plot. In fact, my words are more of a plot than is provided by the movie. Essentially, about every ten minutes, the Marines shoot at aliens. Then they move to a new location. Then shoot more aliens. Then move. Then shoot some more. This continues until the end. The only thing that keeps the film from being a total failure are the decent special effects and lots of skillfully executed explosions.
Eckhart isn’t a bad actor when given the opportunity (“Thank You for Smoking,” The Rabbit Hole.”) He does his best here to save “Battle: LA”, but his valiant attempt fails. He is surrounded by thespian dullards. It doesn’t help that most of the dialogue in “Battle: LA” is laughable. Several people in my local theater also yawned audibly throughout the movie.
Here’s how to ruin a potentially good movie: One, create a bunch of characters who no one cares about. Two, throw them into repetitive situations without a plot and without credible dialogue. Three, use a handheld camera and shake it a lot during filming, because people might think it’s cool, or at least they’ll be distracted. Four, use tricks like extreme closeups, out of focus shots and smoke (plus more camera shaking) to hide the fact that you don’t have aliens that are as cool as those in “District 9.” Five, don’t include any humor, nor romance. Six, pay a composer to try to fool the audience with music into believing that what’s happening on-screen is exciting. Seven, repeat all of the above until your audience goes numb or you run out of footage. Last year’s low-budget “Skyline,” a similar alien-invasion movie, was not a great movie. And yet, it was 100% more entertaining than “Battle: LA.”
According to Box Office Mojo, “Battle: LA’s” production budget was $70 million. That’s not horribly expensive, but it’s not exactly cheap either. Other than the special effects, I can only wonder where all that money went. The only actor in the group who might have commanded a decent salary is Eckhart. Maybe the money was used to pay 1000 stage hands to make sure the camera was always shaking. Shaky camera work can be useful sometimes. But here’s a hint: When two guys are sitting at a desk talking, it’s not necessary to point the camera at one of them when he speaks, then whoosh the camera over to the other guy when he speaks (and move it around until you find his face,) then whoosh it back to the other guy when he’s done. Seriously?
You may think I’m being harsh on the film. I’m not. It costs money to see movies, and we deserve films that entertain. The producers, director and writer of “Battle: LA” aren’t just
incompetent underwhelming. They actually seem to have animus towards us as an audience. We can break movies down into different categories. For example, there are serious, artistic, dramatic or intelligent movies, and there are also light, fun, action-packed, perhaps slightly dumbed-down escapism type movies. There is merit in all of these, depending on the situation. But “Battle: LA” is below dumbed-down. It’s insulting.
Rating 1 out of 4 stars.
2011, Rated PG-13, 116 minutes, Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller