Saturday, March 26, 2011


Friday Night Movie Review--Battle: Los Angeles

Despite a colon substituted for the word 'of' in the title, Battle: Los Angeles is a good film, a solid B+, and a modest effort at examination of human existence, soaked in testosterone. Director Jonathan Liebesman, a young South African known for horror films Darkness Falls and a Chainsaw Massacre chapter, has avoided all the problems, the vast number of flaws, in the recent Skyline and delivered a war movie like they don't make anymore.

Aaron Eckhart is the glue that holds the film together. Michelle Rodriguez reprises almost exactly her role in Avatar, and the rest of the cast is largely unknown, at least to me. The beginning is exceptionally strong--Eckhart, a 20 year vet Marine staff sergeant, is working out hard on the beach and running as fast as anyone could in sand when he's passed as if he's standing still by his 20 year old comrades in arms--"Good morning, Staff Sergeant, Good morning, Staff Sergeant, Good morning, Staff Sergeant". Eckhart logically thinks that it's time to retire and he puts in his papers only to have aliens invade for, wait for it, our water. I know it's stupid; but the reason for the invasion or the precise way the aliens wage war against us or the complete lack of effective weapons on their side is all MacGuffin for showing the interaction of the squad. Oh, and after an initial ass-kicking, we seem to be winning in the end. Yeah! Like that could happen.

I know that there is little satisfaction or even drama in a total ass-kicking, like the aliens rolling over us in War of the Worlds and Independence Day (until the twists at the end), so the film writer here has had to pretend that these technologically advanced aliens, who can navigate between stars, can't do better militarily than drones, small arms and RPG like projectiles. The filmmakers have to abandon likely reality, if that term applies to science fiction, and pretend we are at rough military parity with the aliens, if we just get organized, get some intelligence and fight. The plot is much more like Independence Day than War of the Worlds, including a strike on the local 'mother-ship,' and no viral miracle to save us.

There are sprinkled through the movie little jewels of details--Eckhart stabbing and stabbing a wounded alien to figure out where the vital organs are; one of the grunts hearing Eckhart's downing a drone praised as real John Wayne stuff asks "Who's John Wayne?"; and, a counterattack where Eckhart pulls his M9 pistol and blasts away at the alien soldiers. Ou-raw. There is a ton of schmaltz in the rescued civilian children but it's not cloying and doesn't get in the way of the combat.

Like I said, a solid B+.


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