Thursday, 31 March 2011

Battle: Los Angeles review

Quite a few of my reviews (like this one) are written for my University newspaper, so they adhere to a strict word limit. Others will be more relaxed and most probably longer.

Battle: Los Angeles
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardict
Director: Jonathan Liebesman

The special effects in Battle: Los Angeles were due to be done by the ‘Brothers Strause’, before they left the project last year and quickly released the alien invasion film, Skyline. As woeful as Skyline was, it’s not difficult to see why the pair jumped ship.

The key distinctive feature of Battle: LA is its valiant attempt to be the most cliché-ridden movie ever. Staff Sergeant Nantz (Eckhart) is nearing retirement and has one last shot at redemption after a chequered service record; leading a small group of Marines to try and save Los Angeles from marauding aliens. Sound familiar? That’s probably because it is. The scenario has been done countless times before, the group of Marines we follow are all two-dimensional caricatures, and the aliens are completely unimaginative.

Liebesman has spoken of his aim to make the film as realistic and plausible as possible, but this effect is ruined almost every time a character opens their mouth, thanks to the trite dialogue (for example, the soldiers being told ‘kill anything that isn’t human’, presumably meaning domestic pets as well as aliens). Handheld camerawork can add realism, but not quite as effectively when that hand is on the end of a constantly flailing arm, rendering the majority of the action an incomprehensible mess.

To make matters worse, there’s the unashamed nationalism. Rampant, flag-waving Americanism is something fairly commonplace in Hollywood disaster films, and this is no exception. Apparently, Battle: LA could be the first in a series of films, showing the invasion from different cities’ perspectives. Whilst this does go some way to excusing the nauseating patriotism, it does mean more Battle films. I’m not sure which is worse.