Friday, March 18, 2011

Film Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles
Rated PG 13
116 min
Genre: Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller

Aaron Eckhart as S Sgt. Michael Nantz
Ramon Rodriguez as 2nd Lt. William Martinez
Cory Hardrict as Cpl. Jason Lockett
Gino Anthony Pesi as Cpl. Nick Stavrou
Ne-Yo as Cpl. Kevin Harris
James Hiroyuki Liao as L Cpl. Steven Mottola
Bridget Moynahan as Michele

Spoiler Alert: I write about the film here, and I summarize the film including the ending. If you don't want to know how it all comes out in the end, stop reading and go see the film. Otherwise, continue to waste your time.

I haven't seen an action film in a long time, so I went to see Battle: Los Angeles after reading the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I note that 32% of the official Rotten Tomatoes staff liked it, while 64% of the voting public liked it. I'm betting that the producer of the film along with everyone else directly involved in profit sharing care more about the proletariat than they do about a bunch of approved critics who have little better to do than regurgitate whatever they read in the New York Times or Chicago Tribune. As of today, the film has grossed $35,000,000 and that's a lot of dead presidents.

The deal is that scientists (who else?) discover a swarm of meteors that appear suddenly on the edge of our solar system and begin converging on the third planet. That would be us, genius. Just as everyone at the bar is ignoring CNN, scientists announce that instead of slamming into the third planet the meteor swarm is slowing up and taking aim – at us. The invasion is on.

The aliens employ all the diplomacy and subtlety of Attila the Hun passing through Gaul. Seeing that any kind of treaty is something to be ironed out after the war, we mobilize our military. Meantime, scientists discover that the aliens want our water. Salt water, fresh water, even sewer water. The aliens want all of it. Evidently there's a water shortage in the entire universe. I noted that since the aliens were using water for fuel the implications to the petroleum industry were significant, which would explain the motivation for resistance. The aliens begin by hitting Los Angeles and other major cities along the coast. I've lost track of the number of times Los Angeles has been destroyed in one way or another, but I kind of wonder if the film industry isn't trying to tell us something. We get to see the aliens right away and they are ugly looking things, a kind of cross between Hitlery Clinton and an octopus. The alien ground pounders carry several hundred pounds of combat gear, and they all resent this enough to lighten their load as they ambulate along the streets of L.A.

Our hero Staff Sargent Michael Nantz inherits a walking cluster fuck of a ninety day wonder (Lieutenant, in this case 2nd Lt. William Martinez) and a host of jar heads that don't trust him any further than... well, words fail me. They don't trust him though, because Nantz has a lot of baggage over his last mission. So when the aliens pull a beach invasion, Nantz and the jar heads saddle up and move out under command of the second looie. Naturally they all get japped on an open street by the alien ground pounders who have taken to the roof tops. High ground, you see. I'll spare you the rest of this, mainly because it's so predictable that everyone knows what's going to happen right from the start of the film, and you know this for the same reason everyone watching the old Star Trek TV shows knew for a fact that not all the red shirts were coming back to the ship, just like everyone knew Kirk, Spock and McCoy would return safe and sound. About the only cliché I didn't hear in this film was “A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.” The rest is covered, as is every single over used plot device known to Hollywood. That leaves acting and special effects.

How the actors manage to deliver their lines with a straight face is beyond me. I couldn't do it unless I was hammered, or at least half in the bag. Okay, so maybe that's how they do it. They all come through and that's good, because if they didn't it would detract from the film's saving grace: special effects.

The film is a non-stop, massive battle which destroys everything in sight. The special effects are great, and are solidly backed up by costume, sets and makeup. The place looks like a war zone and the aliens have some great gear. When our side shoots up the aliens, there aren't any gratuitous slime shots. Instead, the fifty cal machine gun tears up everything and hits a fuel tank, which blows. Grenades blow stuff up. I particularly liked one scene where they've got a wounded alien hiding in the murky water of a swimming pool. Our Hero casually orders a grenade tossed into the pool. Excellent! Since the aliens are tough to kill (what, you thought they'd be easy?), our side manages to capture a wounded alien, then a civilian veterinarian and the protagonist use his K-Bar to try and find the alien vital spots. This takes time and is a scientific learning and growth experience for everyone. The dialog is priceless.

In the end our side discovers an alien command center, paints it with a laser and calls in a missile strike. The giant command center goes airborne just before being hit with a few missiles and is destroyed in a truly spectacular display of falling debris, fire and smoke.

I liked this film for the special effects and sets. The story is nice and simple, and the aliens are not wimpy push overs, or misunderstood buckets of cottage cheese or anything like that. They want to kill all of us and won't surrender. We rain on their parade.

I'll give it four out of five for special effects only. If you want anything more than that, wait for the DVD.


Capt. Schmoe said...

I concur with your review, the redeeming factor of this film is the effects. I found the writing and dialogue a little cliche, okay the dialogue was a too corny for me.

Despite everything, it's entertainment value was worth matinee price, I'm not so sure about prime time price. Thanks for the post.

Mad Jack said...

Nice point Capt. The film is a solid matinee price value. I paid full price, and while I don't exactly regret it, I don't feel like talking about the great deal I got - because I didn't.

Yeah, if you can see this one at the matinee, by all means have at it.