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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.25%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Just Average: 6.25%
Pretty Crappy: 27.08%

4 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Battle: Los Angeles
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by Rob Gonsalves

"It ain't 'Aliens,' folks. Nor even 'Starship Troopers.'"
1 stars

It's only terrible timing, I suppose, that gave us an apocalyptic destruction movie on the same weekend we were seeing the real, horrific thing on the news. We don't need an attack by aliens hunting for water; an 8.9 earthquake is sufficient, thanks.

The images and sounds coming out of Japan put anything in Battle Los Angeles to shame. We saw, via helicopter cameras, a gargantuan blob of mud and sea water smothering everything in its path -- cars, houses, people. In a way, if you saw that in a movie your eyes would probably reject it as fake. It's implausibly monstrous, like something out of Lovecraft (or Miyazaki in a foul mood). In Battle Los Angeles, what we see is the usual tidy art-directed rubble of movie disaster. It lacks the incomprehensible chill and randomness of the thing itself.

Not that Battle Los Angeles wants to be a starkly realistic meditation on mass death. I mean, it's about aliens. It has been directed by Jonathan Liebesman as if it were a standard-issue war flick, the difference being that the enemy is extraterrestrial. We follow one Marine unit, composed of mostly interchangeable stereotypes, as they make their way through E.T.-torn Los Angeles to find survivors at a police station. The style is ripped off from -- sorry, I mean inspired by -- the you-are-there whip-pan over-edited sweatbox style of Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down. I can say this much for Battle Los Angeles over Black Hawk Down: At least here, when the enemy is presented as inhuman, unstoppable death machines, there's no guilt involved. We're not cheering the slaughter of Somalis; they're just terminators.

There are some half-assed stabs at drama. Staff Sargeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who's about to retire before the aliens strike, is assigned to a unit containing the resentful brother of a soldier who died on one of Nantz' previous missions. So Nantz defers to the orders of a green 2nd Lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez), who mostly doesn't know what the hell he's doing. Then again, neither does anyone else -- it's not as if this has happened before. The strategy seems to be: shoot at the aliens a lot. Eventually, Nantz grabs a wounded alien and, in a particularly queasy sequence, keeps stabbing it and roughly dissecting it until he figures out what will kill it.

I kind of felt sorry for the alien, who might've been some grunt beloved on his home planet by his alien wife and alien kids, trying to survive this mission and get some darn water. You might remember that David Bowie's alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth also came here in search of our life-giving liquid; he ended up a drunken recluse, and maybe if the aliens in Battle Los Angeles had chosen a more peaceful approach they, too, might've succumbed to a draining ennui. Perhaps being blown up by a few motivated Marines is a nobler way to go -- a Viking funeral rather than measuring out their lives with coffee spoons.

Anyway, the dwindling unit, joined at one point by the rapidly typecast Michelle Rodriguez (who's funny enough in interviews that I'd like to see her in a comedy every so often instead of hefting ordnance forever), finds a few survivors and has to get them to a certain checkpoint before the Air Force bombs the area. This creates an almost-literal ticking-bomb tension that turns out to go absolutely nowhere. Between the disorienting jiggly-cam and the dreary rubbled disasterscape, Battle Los Angeles is visually obnoxious and swiftly falls into a redundant march -- how many times can we watch Marines taking cover and returning fire at barely glimpsed aliens before our eyes glaze over? There are some feints at levity, but nothing in the movie is funnier than the first reel's hapless attempt to set up the soldiers as real people -- we see one Marine kissing his wife's pregnant belly goodbye, and I never could remember which one he was.

Say what you will about James Cameron, but he's good at this stuff, and his "Aliens" remains the pinnacle of the extraterrestrial combat subgenre. I remember ol' Hicks and Hudson and Vasquez (the proto-Michelle Rodriguez) and of course Ripley more vividly after 25 years than I remember, two hours after seeing "Battle Los Angeles," Staff Sergeant Nantz and ... the rookie guy and ... jeez, what were their names?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19711&reviewer=416
originally posted: 03/12/11 20:21:49
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell better than independance day 3 stars
1/05/14 reptilesni Made Independence Day look like it was written by Stephen Hawking. At least ID4 was fun. 1 stars
2/28/13 KingNeutron Disappointing - could have used a better director 2 stars
8/26/12 David Pollastrini The most boring alien invasion film I've ever seen. 1 stars
3/10/12 Silkworm Film so bad I can't even end this sente..... 1 stars
9/10/11 Captain00Kirk The camerawork is great! (Sarcasm) www.youtube.com/Captain00Kirk 1 stars
8/19/11 Meep waste of time and money 1 stars
7/16/11 Rich The military are the good guys, what will Hollywood think of next? It was great! 5 stars
7/06/11 mr.mike I know I'm in the minority here , but I thought it was damn good 4 stars
6/18/11 Jennifer Barr very disapointed 2 stars
6/12/11 Shaun A Unbelievable but enjoyable, a bit like Independence Day 4 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles Fun trash. 4 stars
3/27/11 gc Blackhawk Down with aliens, and not nearly as good of a movie 2 stars
3/26/11 joshmage Directors and Producers who support this constant camera shaking should be shot in the head 1 stars
3/25/11 M. Rogers Not great, but better on big screen that it will be on T.V. sets. 3 stars
3/20/11 holly sines did not live up to what i had expected...and the ending? 3 stars
3/19/11 M Disappointed. The only highlight was Michelle Rodriguez 2 stars
3/15/11 Bigdipperstar I liked the action and the special effects. Finally the men and women in uniform treated > 5 stars
3/15/11 nancyn yeesh. can't they put that much action around a decent script? 2 stars
3/15/11 John clark Pure escapism, I loved every explosive part of it. 4 stars
3/13/11 james Lots of action. Overall bad film :/ 2 stars
3/13/11 Jack Just awful. I want my money (and time) back! 1 stars
3/12/11 Dan Mostly Cliched, but holy fux, aliens were bad ass, action is dix in face, and LA is fucked. 5 stars
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  11-Mar-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 14-Jun-2011

  11-Mar-2011 (12A)

  24-Mar-2011 (M)
  DVD: 14-Jun-2011

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