I ’m not sure if ‘Battle L.A’ qualifies as a movie, it’s nothing more than one giant long shootout. Scenes in the movie range from “awful” to “average” and it never lives up to the promise of that great trailer.
Aaron Eckhart plays Nantz; a military guy, who may or may not be responsible for the death of his marines during a previous mission. In some “last week on the job” cliche Nantz is assigned to help with an evacuation mission: You see, meteorites are falling to Earth – and the military is evacuating all of Los Angeles.
The giant rocks crash into the ocean and with them come these humanoid aliens marching into L.A they have gun’s strapped to them and yada yada. You know the drill. Mayhem ensues and then – BAM! We flashback to 24 hours earlier and get introduced to the team, checklist style: Marine with pregnant wife, check. Marine engaged to girlfriend, check. Virgin, check. Nervous newly promoted Marine, check. All of these characters are inconsequential – so little characterization is given throughout the movie that it’s often difficult to tell who is who.
And because you can’t distinguish between characters, they become nothing elements of the film. The “nothing” Marines get sent into L.A to look for straggling citizens, here they meet “Hot Marine” Michelle Rodriguez, they meet Bridget Moynahan (the “Hot Scientist”), Michael Pena (The civilian) and his child. These characters add nothing to the movie but screen-time. Called in to deliver dialogue so bad that it makes Eckhart’s look incredible; They either stand in the film for cheap manipulation (like children in danger), eye candy (girls amongst gunfire) or exposition (of the “oh didn’t you know” variety).
All that the screenplay by Chris Bertolini really does is provide us with cardboard figures that carry guns and get shot at. Its a movie not about people, it’s about aliens and fighting. If all you’re after in a movie is those things then stop reading this review and go see the movie.
At some point somebody realized that there isn’t any connective tissue to the movie; and they got Aaron Eckhart involved. Whether it be Sony Pictures; director Jonathan Lieberman; or the screenwriter Bertolini. I don’t know. Without this actor’s involvement the movie would have been a disaster. Even though his character is written as a shallow one; as the typical “hero”, Eckart manages to elevate it; even if forced to deliver dialogue; such as “Marines never quit!” or “I don’t care what decision you make, as long as you make a decision!” etc.
There is one scene towards the end of the movie where he monologues about the people he has seen die – the dialogue is some of the worst in recent memory – but somehow Eckhart makes it work. You know you have a brilliant actor when he can take a terrible movie and elevate it.
Eckhart manages to make ‘Battle L.A’ somewhat entertaining. Michelle Rodriguez; Bridget Moynahan; and Michael Pena have little to do; and barely register as characters. Eckhart is the only one who manages to make a semi impression.
It’s because nobody else is developed in the script, and thus it’s hard to care about anybody. The gang goes from location to location, and the aliens increase in size and become harder to kill – its like a video game really. I’m not the first to say this, and I won’t be the last: ‘Battle L.A’ isn’t based on a video game, but it feels like it is. It is just a series of ‘boss battles’, one after the other. The final moments involve alien drones having to be picked off one-by-one while one Marine tries to laser target a spacecraft….its all so video game like.
I suppose that this sort of film-making is well suited for the A.D.D fueled ‘Transformers’ generation, and on that level it delivers. With shit blowing up every thirty seconds. The movie is mayhem. The movie has been sold as ‘Black Hawk Down’ meets ‘Cloverfield’. I understand the comparison, and the aesthetic works most of the time. I can’t help but think of a passage in Stephen King’s brilliant memoir/manual: ‘On Writing’, he says something like: (really extremely paraphrased): “whenever you see a book or movie advertised as ‘x meets x’ or ‘in the tradition of Stephen King’ etc you know its nothing but a bullshit photocopy…avoid these like the plague.”
I guess the major fallback of ‘Battle L.A’ is that it is nothing but a photocopy: even though its fun and entertaining at times; it just doesn’t do anything else but copy other films. For example tale the last 20 minutes of ‘Battle L.A’ : it is just a major crib from ‘Independence Day’ - It was such a rip off that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable saying it was an homage.
This isn’t the only “homage” to be found though, the movie seems to entirely consist of stolen elements; Creature designs looks borrowed from Chris Cunningham. Filmmaking style seems taken from Michael Bay and Ridley Scott. Hell even the sound design sounds like ‘Transformers’. I’d say on a technical level ‘Battle L.A.’ is impressive, but you’ve seen it all done much better before: This movie is the cinematic equivalent to a impressionist painting; from far away it looks like an image, but when you get up close it’s nothing but a bunch of badly timed broad strokes. It’s a copy, of a copy, of a copy.
It’s the ‘Starbucks’ of worldwide coffee.
The coffee is passable, and sometimes even enjoyable. It goes down okay, it’s cheap and convenient. But the second you taste the real gourmet stuff – you realize it. You realize you’ve been had. You’ve been conned by an imitation. It’s a missed opportunity for Starbucks to make better tasting coffee, but if it did that then it wouldn’t be able to make the money it does.
Like Starbucks; ‘Battle L.A’ is a missed opportunity, but if this film had tried to be original then it just would have failed on its ass, it wouldn’t have made money.
Yes, the movie could have been far, far better; if its screenplay were as good as it’s special effects and action; then we could have had the first great movie of the American Summer. But that’s not what audiences and hollywood care about. Eh, maybe they’ll fix all the problems with the probable sequel: ‘Battle N.Y’, but until then we just have to be complacent with the first of what is probably many shallow, cynical, summer blockbusters -designed to do nothing more than take money from you.
And hey, if you enjoy endless gunfights and explosions, then is giving your money to ‘Battle L.A’ really that bad a thing?
5 out of 10.