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Review: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Battle: Los Angeles

Rating

Director
Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay
Christopher Bertolini
Length
116 min.
Starring
Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Will Rothhaar, Cory Hardrict, Jim Parrack, Gino Anthony Pesi, Ne-Yo, James Hiroyuki Liao, Noel Fisher, Bridge Moynahan, ichelle Rodriguez, Lucas Till
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language

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Review
You can't sit down to a movie like Battle: Los Angeles and expect art. Matter of fact, anticipating anything short of pure, unadulterated banality would likely leave you disappointed. The only new release of any appeal to me led me to the cineplex to discover a movie that I expected to be awful and wasn't nearly.

The story of a band of Marines called to active duty when an alien force begins invading earth and its major coastal cities. The key focus of this film is the city of Los Angeles. It's a huge city with plenty of potential for destruction and, unlike New York City, has no major landmarks to blow up or destroy in an effort to point out how cool its visual effects are.

Aaron Eckhart plays Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, an experienced Marine who came back from Iraq with a dead platoon, a commendation and some major resentment among those who heard of his purported actions on the front line. He's decided to retire and is ready to leave the Marine Corps behind, but is stopped short by this terrible invasion that threatens civilization. A recent Officer Training School graduate played by Ramon Rodriguez is assigned to lead Nantz' unit as they are sent down Santa Monica Blvd. to try to rescue a group of civilians trapped in that area's police station.

Every possible action and sci-fi cliche is present. From the inexperienced commander shown up by his battle-weary brigade to the precocious children thrust into the middle of tragedy, it's a smorgasbord of weak moments tied together by ludicrous screenwriting techniques and situations culminating in a predictable conclusion. The body count is expectedly high and anyone who lacks a personality is quickly disposed of. Even those without one still manage to stick around for much of the film. You have people you root for, but mostly, you're just counting down the minutes until the next character dies. It's almost like a combination of an action film, horror film and disaster flick combined.

Yet, despite all of its multitude of flaws, it was an entertaining brain-off kind of film. On top of that, unlike the ludicrous invasion in Signs where the aliens, who were allergic to water, invaded a planet where over two-thirds of the surface is covered by water; or the last-minute collapse of believability in Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds where the aliens had been hiding for some years, yet neglected to detect that some pathogens in the air were fatally toxic to them? No matter what invasion film, Indepednence Day, the new Day the Earth Stood Still or Skyline, the implausibility of the attack, the utter lack of foresight in the battle plan or the utter lack of research lead to highly questionable situations. And that's where Battle: Los Angeles does one of the best jobs with the genre that I've seen in some time.

Here is a group of aliens who have come to earth for its most abundant resource: water. They land and attack major metropolitan areas, taking no prisoners and using their advanced technology to pinpoint and eradicate its enemies. They don't wait for the enemy to attack back. They use their formidable strength to launch the attack and press it forward without stopping. These are not idiot aliens, they are advanced and know they can win. And in spite of this, there are ways around them, but not many and it takes human perseverance and intelligence to formulate a way to take back their city.

Sure, the film plays like a recruitment film for the U.S. Marine Corps, but once you recognize just how limited its scope is, ignore the preachiness of the dialogue and entertain yourself with the pure visceral thrill of it all, you find yourself enjoying it more than expected. The performances aren't great, but they aren't at the level of awfulness on display in Independence Day or Signs. Battle: Los Angeles is a diverting film that allows you to spend a couple of hours without having to think about all of your real world problems. As escapism, this one does a passable job.
Review Written
March 14, 2011

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