All Hope is Clearly Lost

Battle: Los Angeles (March 11, 2011)     1.5/5

Directed by Jonathon Liebesman (Columbia Pictures)

If your dog were to indulge upon its own feces, vomit, and then manage to stick an American flag in the residue … you would have basically seen a condensed version of Battle: Los Angeles, and by default, a much better one.  It is a pathetic excuse for a sci-fi war film, and if not for a couple exciting action scenes and visuals, accompanied by sporadic moments of hilariously awful dialogue, Battle: LA would be completely indefensible.

The basic premise is this: meteors fall from the sky, and it is soon realized that they contain hostile extraterrestrials.  So we engage in an epic war with the aliens, this “battle” being centered in Southern California.  SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) leads our team of grunts with determination, yet seeks relief from the military life, having sought retirement following a recent folly in Afghanistan.  As can be inferred from those three sentences, everything about Battle: LA is uninspired, shamelessly taking elements from war movies Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down, while also stealing from sci-fi flicks such as Independence Day and District 9.  Yet it never questions that it has something new to offer, this seriousness toward the material giving the movie a false impression that it belongs in theaters.  This self-induced lie does little to cover the fact that Battle: LA is not of much higher stature than your average SyFy Channel original movie.  Yet even those “films” have their own campy appeal.  I don’t doubt that the cable knockoff, The Battle of Los Angeles, might actually be more enjoyable.

Battle: LA does have moments of humor, but they are often unintentional, resulting from one of several ways, including (but not limited to) a pale attempt to make us laugh, horribly written dialogue, atrocious acting, ridiculous plot-holes, or schlocky sentimentality, accompanied by a small chuckle at ourselves for being dumb enough to throw money at such a piece of garbage.  Aaron Eckhart provides the film’s only decent performance, but it still comes off as though a solid actor is reading lines written by his eighth-grade son in English class.  But for a trashy action movie, these aspects are forgivable.  What are not are the elements of Battle: LA that make it so damn boring.  Although they thrill on occasion, the action sequences are redundant and poorly edited, accompanied by shaky, amateurish camerawork that is so utterly artificial, as opposed to artistic.  Meanwhile, the color scheme is dull and uninteresting, going for a gritty look but instead, providing a low-budget feel when the film should be a glossy and explosive exercise in cool.  Instead, it is just idiocy.

The CG visuals, when they appear, are often interesting to look at, but the film features virtually no special effects that are exciting or awe-inspiring, not even during its yawner of a climax.  There are no shots of skyscrapers exploding or a city collapsing under firepower.  Sometimes you wonder if the film is even set in the city at all.  To make matters worse, even the design of the aliens is cliché and laughably second-rate.  And do I have to mention that the film is basically one long advertisement for the military?  I half-expected shots of subliminal messaging to appear onscreen.  No, Battle: LA does not make one want to join the marines, but instead become one of those unfortunate civilians who perished before the cavalry arrived.  The fact that some people would enjoy a film like Battle: Los Angeles blows my mind.  For the rest of us, it’s basically a sign of the apocalypse.        

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