Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 1:16 pm
Battle: Los Angeles Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Staring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez
Release date: March 11, 2011
As Battle: Los Angeles begins, we meet Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). He is an older soldier, and at the start of the movie, decides that his best years are behind him, and chooses to retire. As fate would have it, he has one last mission, and he is assigned to a group of Marines led by a young Lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez). Unfortunately, that last mission involves aliens invading and the possible end of mankind. The rest of the movie deals with the Marines trying to rescue some civilians while fighting the alien menace.
Battle: Los Angeles tries to be a combination of Black Hawk Down and District 9, but unfortunately, it never reaches the levels of either. To be fair, I don’t think it was the creator’s goal to make as deep a movie as those two are. It seems like they just wanted to make a cool alien invasion movie, and in that they succeeded. The movie has a pretty fast pace, and never slows down for too long, meaning that I didn’t ever lose interest in what was going on. The CGI is decent enough; director Jonathan Liebesman and his team chose to use a lot of smoke to obscure the effects a little. You very rarely get a good look at the aliens, and they’re never really established as a threat, other than having superior firepower, but even then, the aliens can be taken down with modern human weaponry.
If I was nit-picking, I would say that I wish they had spent some more time explaining the aliens’ goals (they mention in passing that they have come for our water), but the movie isn’t about the aliens; it’s about the humans, and more specifically about Sgt. Nantz. Aaron Eckhart leads a solid cast, and turns in a good performance. He feels like he would be someone I would want to lead me into battle against the alien hordes. More importantly, the script sometimes gets very flag-wavy and a little cheesy in its dialog, but Eckhart is able to make it sound convincing enough. There are a couple of big speeches he has to pull off, and for the most part, he makes it work. The rest of the cast is filled with a lot of younger actors, but they aren’t given that much to do, other than occasionally die.
I had a big problem with the first action scene in the movie, as it is shot in a quasi-documentary style, but they use the worst kind of shaky camera, and it ends up being a mess. I couldn’t tell what was going on, I never got a good look at the aliens, and I was feeling a little queasy by the end of it. It never put me into the action the way a good documentary-style action scene should, instead it put me out of the film for a while. Fortunately, the shaky camera effect is toned down as the movie goes on, and I got a much better feel for the action as it went on. The action towards the middle and the end works well, and it’s just much easier to follow, which means that you can focus more on the characters, which makes the movie better.
Once the camera settles down, what we get is a fairly standard invasion movie, with some familiar characters, familiar situations, and a familiar ending. The ending leaves a lot of space for a sequel, and I could see a kind of franchise being made with this. Who knows, maybe next time we see Battle: Miami, with a different group of soldiers fighting the same aliens but from a different perspective. There is room to expand on the idea, and I’m curious to see where they go with it.
There’s nothing patently wrong with Battle: Los Angeles, but it’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever seen either. It’s not such a great movie that I would say you have to rush out and see it, but if you’ve got time to go to a matinee, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours. Battle: Los Angeles ends up being a decent action movie, but doesn’t rise above that and become something more, so I am giving it a 3 out of 5. Remember, always look to the skies.