When you see a trailer for a movie like Battle: Los Angeles, you know what to expect – loud explosions, CGI, video game-like action, cliche lines – but you hope that somehow it will be different. You hope that this is going to be the movie that will transcend the alien invasion genre. You hope you are seeing the first Matrix movie and not Equilibrium*. Unfortunately, it was more the latter than the former.
First of all, was this movie co-produced or financed in any way by the U.S. Marines because even though it’s a sci-fi movie about an alien invasion, this felt like propaganda for the Marines. I wish I could have taken a shot every time any of the soliders’ ability to overcome any problem, no matter how improbable, was attributed to him or her being a Marine or an American.
On the positive, Aaron Eckhart was good as conflicted Staff Sergeant Nantz. The writing of his (and all the characters for that matter) was dubious at best but he played it like he wanted an Oscar for it which is all you can ask from an actor in a sci-fi movie. Also, I’m glad Michelle Rodriguez has found a niche for herself as a tough officer/solider who gets off the occasional funny one-liner. The director must have told her to pretend she was playing the ancestor of her character in Avatar.
As far as the movie goes, I was generally entertained. It started slow but once the action got going, I was onboard. They didn’t shy away from killing characters who we briefly got to know which is always a plus in my book. If you’re not afraid characters might die, you might as well be watching G.I. Joe cartoons (although there were G.I. Joe moments where the aliens bullets would keep missing the Marines despite outnumbering them 3 to 1). The special effects were underwhelming and I guess they thought by making everything REALLY loud you wouldn’t notice. The script was paint-by-numbers war movie with a sci-fi setting. I wanted to write down every cliché but I lost track. Here’s what I can remember:
- Our hero has a past conflict that clouds his judgement throughout the movie until he eventually comes to terms with it
- They are on a time crunch but we have time for 2-3 soul-stirring speeches to rally the troops
- They run into two separate people along the way who *just happen* to have specific skills/knowledge that’s useful
- There’s a “leave me behind, that’s an order” moment
- There’s a young commander who freezes at the moment of conflict who is snapped out of it by our older hero
- Even though there was an invasion with thousands dead and abandoned cars everywhere, our heroes are able to drive a BUS in the roads to escape without their seriously path blocked
* I bet Academy Award winner Christian Bale wishes he could forget that one.