Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Battle: Los Angeles

"Now you got three hours to get your ass back before those bombs drop, and make no mistake THEY WILL DROP! with... or without you"

Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is on the verge of retiring from the US Marines when he gets called back into action one last time to help repel an alien attack on L.A. What scientists first suspect to be meteors turn out to be the ships of an unidentified species of alien who intend to colonise the Earth and drain its resources. Under the leadership of an untested Lieutenant and with a squad of Marines who don’t trust him, Nantz must help a band of civilians to escape Santa Monica before it is blown up by the Air Force.

This is a film with a multitude of problems which start with the character introductions. For a start there are too many, all introduced with a minute or two of back story. They are all stock characters which have been seen a thousand times. We have the guy who’s getting married, the untested Officer, the guy whose brother was killed, the guy in therapy, the guy from New Joizey, the guy from Texas and perhaps more unusually the guy from Nigeria who enlisted for citizenship. I couldn’t tell you any more about the characters than that and never really cared for any of them. Later they are joined by a female Air Force (pilot? I think) (Michelle Rodriguez) along with five civilians, three of which are children.

The next problem is the terrible, terrible script. The plot is basically aliens attack, we shoot them, kill mother ship, yey! It’s been used hundreds of times and there is absolutely nothing new here. We learn very little about the aliens except that they like water. The dialogue is shockingly bad. Every minutiae of the plot is explained in a way that a cat with learning difficulties could understand what’s going on. Phrases such as “This is not a drill” (really?) and “They’re gone, they’re all gone” are banded about and there are far too many whoops for my liking. From the opening scene when Eckhart exclaims that “I’ve got my twenty, I know when to get out” I thought to myself ‘oh for fuck’s sake, here we go. It’s the old cop on the last day of the job routine and wait, his commanding officer is a bit useless. Whoever will save the day?’

The plot has many inconsistencies, problems and holes. I could go on for pages but the things that annoyed me the most included the fact that Eckhart and co were sent in to a Police Station to extract the five remaining civilians in Santa Monica. Five? Just five in the whole city, and they happen to be in the same place? Another annoyance was that the aliens introduced a powerful new weapon about halfway through. Why didn’t they just use it from the start? The Marines often only reloaded their gun immediately before a battle, rather than after the last one and the whole plot comes down to finding the mother ship, after which “we won, we won!” is shouted by a Marine. It’s just ridiculous. While ridiculous isn’t always bad, the fact that I was noticing so many problems indicates that I wasn’t involved or enjoying myself. I actually felt quite bored all the way through and checked how long was left at least three times.

The CGI is quite good in places but is patchy overall. The over reliance on it also made things hard to follow. There were so many explosions happening all over the place that I couldn’t keep on top of who was where or why. Unlike Black Hawk Down where you get an understanding of where the characters are and where they’re heading, here you just get the sense that they’re somewhere on a street, shooting at something. The creature design isn’t very good either. There is so little focus on them that you never get a sense of who they are or what they are like.

The acting isn’t actually too bad and Aaron Eckhart does a surprisingly good job. Adetokumboh McCormack and Jim Parrack also stand out. Most of the performances are spoiled though by clunky, cheesy dialogue.

It seems obvious that this film is trying to cash in on the success of the likes of Call of Duty. The squad based dynamic is added to with an enormous amount of first person and cross hair camera work. The whole film is like watching someone play a video game only without some twelve year old from Minnesota calling you a gay bender. As well as its video game impression, the film also feels like military propaganda. The Marines all have beautiful girlfriends and drive fast cars and the film is shouting at you to join.  

Battle: Los Angeles is an awful film which tries to mix a good video game with a good war film and ends up nowhere near either. If you want a decent film like this then try Skyline, otherwise play a video game.    


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