Battle: Los AngelesReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 03/10/11 23:00:00
Some of the big-budget action blockbusters being made today make you feel like you are playing a videogame instead of watching a movie. Other make you feel like you are watching someone else playing the game and having all the fun instead of you. In the case of “Battle: Los Angeles,” sitting through it makes you feel like you are watching someone else playing a videogame while another person is operating a jackhammer approximately six inches away from your skull for two solid hours. For some sensation junkies, the kind of moviegoers whose only basic requirement for their cinematic entertainment is that things blow up (not even necessarily real good), the film will seem like explosion-ridden manna from heaven and I am sure that they will find it to be “rad” or “awesome” or “pithy” or whatever slang the kids are using today for things like this. As for those moviegoers who prefer their explosions to be offset to some degree with such seemingly archaic concepts as clever plotting, smart dialogue, well-defined characters or something resembling a point, there is perilously little on display here to engage them on any level but then again, it is likely that most of those people probably wouldn’t be attending a film entitled “Battle: Los Angeles” in the first place and if they did, they quite frankly deserve everything that they get--mostly a splitting headache and a new appreciation for the comparative subtlety of the oeuvre of Roland Emmerich.One fine spring days, mysterious clusters of meteors begin appearing in Earth’s atmosphere on trajectories that will have them landing in the oceans outside the major coastal cities of the world. As it turns out, they are actually a massive invading force of aliens hell-bent on laying waste to anything and everything in their path. In Los Angeles, one of the targets for destruction, a platoon of Marines consisting of vet-with-a-dark- past Staff Sgt Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and a group of nondescript jarheads, each of whom was apparently assigned only one distinguishing characteristic (one is getting married, one is about to be a father, one has a dead brother who was killed in Iraq on a mission under Nantz’s command), are sent out into the rubble-strewn streets to a police station where a few civilians (including Michael Pena, Bridget Moynahan and a few adorable moppets) are holed up and extract them before the commencement of a massive bombing run meant to stop the intruders once and for all. Along the way, they get involved in any number of firefights with seemingly countless numbers of the enemy, pick up another lone marine, Tech. Sgt. Elena Santos, whose chief distinguishing characteristic is that she is played by Michelle Rodriguez (“I didn’t get this far on my good looks. I’m ready for some payback.”) and pick up the civilians. Alas, and I suppose this could be considered a Spoiler if you really think there is anything about the plot of something called “Battle: Los Angeles” that could possibly be Spoiled in the first place, the bombing doesn’t goes off as planned, our heroes discover that they are practically the only people left alive in the area and they decide to make a final stand against the creatures that, among other things, reveals that the creatures are vulnerable to hit-and-runs, which suggests that at least Halle Berry may have survived the apocalypse.
Essentially the end product of the forced mating of “Cloverfield” and the popular combat videogame “Call to Duty,” “Battle: Los Angeles” starts off with a couple of ideas that, properly nurtured, might have developed into something that might have entertained the mind as well as the eye. Unlike many alien-attack movies, in which the creatures take out so many well-known landmarks that you get the sense that they planned their invasion using the same tour guides employed by your parents every time they step over the state line, the film sticks to a grunt’s-eye view of the battleground that lacks any of the expected money shots of famous landmarks going down or up (or sideways, if this had been in 3-D) in flames. The other is that, unlike the familiar faces that usually dominate the casts of disaster epics like this, most of the people on display here are relatively unknown and the few that are reasonably familiar don’t have the most sterling track records when it comes to making it to the end credits of their respective ventures--Eckhart was defeated by Batman at the end of “The Dark Knight,” the seemingly tough Rodriguez failed to survive the likes of (Spoiler Alert!) “Resident Evil,” “Bloodrayne,” “Lost,” “Fast & Furious” (which still gets my goat to this day) and “Avatar” and while Moynahan has survived the movies that she has been in to the best of my recollection, she did find herself unexpectedly kicked to the curb by Tom Brady for the nearest Brazilian supermodel to catwalk along. (I suppose there is some joke to be made here comparing Brady to a vile and rapacious alien intruder but so as to avoid inciting the ire of any Massholes who may be reading this, I will leave it for someone else to make.) Unfortunately, in the hands of screenwriter Christopher Bertolini (whose last big-screen credit was for the nearly unwatchable “The General’s Daughter” nearly a dozen years ago) and director Jonathan Liebesman (the auteur of such classics as “Darkness Falls” and the prequel to the remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), these ideas are quickly destroyed as quickly and as thoroughly as the neighborhoods on display. Without any landmarks of note to any viewers who don’t actually live in the area, and maybe not even in those cases, the film just quickly descends into a series of endless battles in nondescript locations that all quickly blur into one another and the sheer monotony of it all overtakes whatever visceral excitement might have been derived from the spectacle of marines and aliens unloading on each other. As for the characters, they are equally nondescript and, thanks to the weak writing and bland casting of the majority of the roles, the only ones who make even the slightest bit of impact are the more familiar faces, which is too bad for them because it will only make it that much harder for them to deny their participation a few months down the road.
“Battle: Los Angeles” may not be the worst film ever made--hell, it wasn’t even the worst film that I saw in one 24-hour screening period--but its lack of even the vaguest sense of creativity or intelligence grows kind of depressing after a while. Even those looking for campy B-movie thrills and unintentional laughs are likely to come away from it feeling let down--the aliens are poorly conceived and barely glimpsed at any point, there is no discernible level of excitement despite the ticking-clock narrative and the dialogue is so resolutely of the boilerplate variety that, with one single exception, it isn’t even worthy of being mocked. (The sole exception--Spoiler Alert--comes when Bridget Moynahan’s character announces her qualifications for helping to participate in a impromptu alien autopsy thusly: “Maybe I can help. I’m a vet.”) The only reason that it even exists is to hopefully, at least from the point-of-view of the producers, is to win a weekend or too at the box-office and generate enough money to spawn a few sequels that will presumably depict the invasion from other vantage points--based on the locales mentioned in the film’s CNN alerts that are so numerous that the network almost deserved a “Special Appearance By” credit, I am hoping for “Battle: Ireland” next.Is “Battle: Los Angeles” something that might be up your alley? Well, if you are someone who can hardly wait for summer to roll around so that you can experience the glory that presumably is “Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D,” then it is probably right up your alley. On the other hand, if that previous sentence literally sent a chill of pure fear down your spine, you might be better off spending your weekend doing something else, such as anything.
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