Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review - Battle Los Angeles

An alien invasion has hit Earth. While fighting takes place around the world, in Los Angeles a Staff Sergeant returns to duty in order to help lead a group of Marines as they try reclaim the city from the invaders.

"Battle: Los Angeles" is too convenient and never lives up to its full potential. The film has its moments and is not all bad, but it never grows out of the budding stage. The entire film you keep hoping something more is gonna happen but it never does and by the end I walked away frustrated that the film never lived up to its realm of possibilities. Take the alien invaders for example. We have a worldwide invasion taking place with air as well as ground troops however we never feel their impact. Sure the aliens are present and the film does a solid job with the invasion (which I will talk more about later) but we never get a real good look at who we are facing. Even when the soldiers have captured a wounded alien and are trying to pinpoint their weaknesses, herky-jerky camerawork, over-editing and shadow play never give us enough. If I am suppose to be afraid of these invaders, shouldn't I get to see them? There is room for debate on teasing and making something scary without ever showing it, but being a military attack-driven story, you'd think we'd get a better look at the attackers.

The film is centered in Los Angeles, more specifically Santa Monica but we never really see the full scope of the invasion. We do get pieces from around the world in the predictable news coverage angle, but this never allowed the audience to grasp the stakes of such a traumatic event. Director Jonathan Liebesman and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin do deserve credit for creating a stirring invasion sequence. Being set in Santa Monica gave the creators a chance to mimic D-Day, storming the beaches of Normandy in WWII and they did a damn fine job. This was the one part of the film I actually loved. Seeing the alien figures march out of the water and on to the beach was the most gripping part of the film. As the action progresses however all the initial buzz and tension set up during the invasion dissipates rapidly due to a generic plot and lack of paranoia. The military group of Marines we follow throughout the film are given a lame duck mission to save a few citizens who are trapped in a local police station. A typical point-A to point-B mission, yawn. As this mission persists the thrill and intensity just slowly roll downhill. The mission just becomes copy and paste. Too many plot points we've seen numerous times before. Also you began to wonder where is the resolution to this film. The soldiers do not make any headway for 3/4th's of the film. They fight and confront the aliens here and there, but to no avail. Unfortunately this leads to the ultimate generic ending. An ending that seems like writer Christopher Bertolini had no clue what to do. It feels like 'Battle' is working its way towards some grand finale or a bitter ending but instead we get a idiotic fizzle that seems just too convenient and too orchestrated.

The dialogue and characters throughout 'Battle' do nothing to engage the audience. The dialogue is beyond campy and comes across downright silly. A lot of the dialogue and plot development tries to appeal to our sympathies, but it is penned so poorly and comes across so cliche that any glimmer of compassion the audience could feel gets lost. The characters as well, I just didn't care if they lived or died. There is a scene we've seen too many times before, where a number of soldiers are hurried into a extraction helicopter only to have the chopper blown up upon lift-off. The audience should feel some bit of compassion for these soldiers but the combination of a bad script and terrible characters you feel nothing other than maybe that was a cool explosion.

The cgi throughout "Battle: Los Angeles" is fairly appealing. I liked the design of the alien warcrafts and the destruction they left behind. I especially liked the animation for the incoming pods carrying the foot soldiers. These looked like incoming missiles firing down when they were actually transports. A brief moment of genius in a mainly muddied film. Back to the aliens, from what we do see, I did like them. I just wanted more of them. This goes back to potential, during the invasion we see very menacing figures invading and destroying everything in their path, but that evaporates as the film chugs forward. Over-editing also plays a hand. Christian Wagner edited the crap out of the movie never allowing one particular camera angle or scene play out like it should.

"Battle: Los Angeles" isn't a waste of time but it is a waste of potential. The film is just too easy when it shouldn't be. The stakes never reach their full potential. The film re-treads military missions we've seen used time and time again and never offers anything new. I wanted a gritty war film with aliens, instead we got a cookie-cutter battle with no blood and barely any intensity.