Notable Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Ne-Yo, Michelle Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict, Bridget Moynahan
Review: Early trailers for Battle: Los Angeles looked extremely promising for this gritty sci-fi war picture. Looking like a mash-up between Independence Day and District 9, it’s been a while since a really impressive alien invasion film has surfaced (I don’t count District 9 because there was never really an all out battle for Earth’s survival). But could Battle: LA deliver with its sporadic cast and questionable camera work? Well, I don’t think I’d classify it as questionable if it was done right. The best part of Battle: LA are the action scenes thankfully, but the worst part happened to be the rest of the film. Just when Battle: LA begins to hook you in with intense battle sequences, poor writing drags everything down to a screeching halt. We’re supposed to feel the bleakness of survival, the thoughtless courage displayed by our soldiers, the emotional drama stemming from events, and the blind power of the human spirit. Instead, it becomes just filler mumbo jumbo before the next fire fight. It’s never a good sign when I’m wishing you could fast forward a film in the theater itself, which happened all too many times in Battle: LA.
Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Eckhart) is your typical American hero nearing the end of his service. After 20 years, he’s no longer the soldier he was, and looks forward to leaving behind all the violence and casualties that came with the job. While training his last squad of soldiers before retirement, strange meteors start falling off the coasts of numerous major cities located around the world. Their presence was unannounced, and it starts being reported that the objects are not reaching full speed when crashing; instead they are slowing down. It doesn’t take long before the world is being colonized for resources by some strange extra-terrestrial race, and Michael Nantz is forced into what could be earth’s final battle. Accompanying fresh out of the academy 2nd Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), Nantz helps lead a platoon of soldiers sent into the hot zone to respond to a civilian distress call, while worrying about the three-hour time limit before the air force bombs the area to kingdom come. The objective is simple: do not lose Los Angeles at all cost. Being a tale of our race having to overcome insurmountable odds, Battle: LA tells the story of our race’s last-ditch effort to save the planet.
Save the planet in the most predictable, cookie-cutter, no brainer plot fueled way possible that is. You know a film is struggling when at what is supposed to be the most dramatic, heart-jerking point of the entire film, you blurt out in uncontrollable laughter. Aaron Eckhart played his role as super Marine to the best of his abilities, but delivers what could be one of the worst “rally the troops” monologues ever. It’s like the writers pulled every sentence out of another terrible speech to make one of the most predictable, corny, and eye-rollingly bad moments ever to grace the big screen. Think Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day, but with the complete opposite effect. The film also completely struggles with subtlety and foreshadowing. It was too obvious whatever a Marine said, the opposite would happen. “You’re going to be perfectly fine!” No you’re not. “We’re gonna make it out of this!” Maybe if you didn’t say that, yeah. “Don’t worry, it’s only a dog!” For now. Ambushes are a great part of the war film genre, but not when they’re eluded to miles away. Battle: LA really struggled in the plot development and writing aspect of the production, something not many films can recover from.
That said, I actually really enjoyed the action in Battle: LA. It was enough to keep me entranced with its gritty and realistic nature; well as realistic as fighting aliens could be. But then Battle: LA messes up what victories it has again with some horrible camera work. It wasn’t supposed to be a first person film like Cloverfield, where a character is putting you directly into the fray, but was still shot in shaky cam mode like it was. Think back to all the complaints surrounding Gamer and how the action was barely visible due to frantic camera movement. Battle: LA has the same effect, making it very hard to focus at times and downright confusing when characters were almost interacting with the camera. I get that Liebesman is trying to place you into the action and not just have you watch from the sidelines, but actually being able to focus on the action is a huge part to understanding what is going on. There were times I couldn’t even tell which character was flying through the air. Not many films can pull off the mix of first person and third person camera view, and Battle: LA was certainly not one of them.
So in reality, Battle: LA gets it half right by delivering some serious action. But, sadly, half doesn’t cut it. Would you be happy with half of a black and white cookie? No, it’s black and white for a reason, you want both flavors there. Without a cohesive plot to follow, it becomes incredibly difficult to garner enough respect for the final product. Battle: LA is missing that whole other side to the film, which also turned out to be the longest parts of the film itself. Battle: LA didn’t even focus on its strong point, believing the viewer would fall pray to just accepting the story as an ego boost to humanity. Thus light is shed on the perils of making an action film. The only way you can save a crappy plot is with enough explosions to distract people from the fact that your story might as well have been taken from a contest where pre-schoolers participated to write it themselves (looking at you Michael Bay). And with an almost two-hour run time for Battle: LA, much too much of that is spent seeing which marine can out cliché the other. I can only assume because of the ending and Hollywood’s shortage of originality, an inevitable sequel is in the mix, and I can only hope a new Battle learns from the criticism next time around.
Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 based solely on the action….