Saturday, March 12, 2011

THEATRICAL REVIEW: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)


STUDIO: Sony Pictures
DURATION: 116 mins

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman
CAST: Arrron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Will Rothhaar, Bridget Moynahan, Nzinga Blake,

On Thursday night my 10 year-old son Zachary and I attended an early screening of BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.  Zachary was very anxious to see it, the TV spots had definitely peaked his curiosity and mine as well. My initial thoughts on the trailer were ID4 meets BLACK HAWK DOWN. Zachary's first impression was RESISTANCE: THE FALL OF MAN video game he plays on his dearly beloved PS3 gaming system.

The film  throws you into the action pretty quickly following some news reports of meteorite clusters entering the Earth's atmosphere rather unexpectedly catching the scientific world with their pants down. The media of course is all over this and we see news reports from around the world indicating that meteors are landing just off the coast of pretty much every country in the world.  It's a great visual as the meteors rain from the sky and plummet into the ocean sending up plumes of water and smoke hundreds of feet in the air, it's a good apocalyptic visual on par with anything in ID4 or 2012. A news crew covering the situation amidst the commotion on the coast catches video of a meteor striking and destroying a Coast Guard cutter off the coast in Santa Monica and then suddenly creatures begin emerging from water.  In an even worse turn of events they turn out to be heavily armed aliens and they immediately begin blazing a trail of  death and despair from coastline working their way inland. Enter Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), the guy just signed his retirement papers but when the shit hits the fan he's assigned a young platoon of fresh faced Marines. The platoon is briefed rather quickly that the world is indeed under attack by an unknown alien threat. Their mission is to recover and evacuate civilians to a safe zone before the military forces starts a massive bombing campaign that will hopefully stop the alien menace in the L.A. area. Once on the streets they are pretty much ambushed right away and the non-stop action begins and nearly never ends throughout the entire run time of the film. There's not much in the way of back story or character development  aside from Eckhart's hero-character Sgt. Nantz. Everyone else are one dimensional and pretty thinly developed caricatures of soldier-types.  I must say that the action is quite well rendered but it's a case of too much too fast. The film is shot handheld and shaky as shit, it's hard to latch onto what's going on and the alien menace is never fully appreciated as they are caught in brief snatches of shaky cam and even when one is taken alive and dissected in an effort to determine it's weakness the creature remains mighty ambiguous. Call me simple, but I wanted to see 'em up close and see the nitty gritty underneath their armaments, didn't happen.

Battle: Los Angeles is a chaotic, action-packed ground war view of a massive alien invasion. It's thrilling at times, it's played for realism and the action is gritty but the beats are very familiar, particularly ID4. While the shaky-cam aesthetic is not a make or break for me it was a bit much as every scene is an amped up mess of frantic editing and dizzying third-person perspective. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the film were the large-scale scenes of mass destruction as L.A. is laid waste to, great visual effects throughout the film. Leaving the theatre I didn't dislike the film but I wasn't satisfied either. Perhaps I was expecting some DISTRICT 9 level genius but whatever the reason I walked away from the film with a sense detachment and no emotional investment. There's no emotional center to the film. On the other hand my son Zachary was quite enamored with the film and kept saying "wow, that was a LOT of action" and for some I'm sure that will be more than enough, it's a popcorn flick at it's heart. It's got great visual effects, tons of carnage but no gore - it's PG-13 afterall - and while it never commits the ultimate sin of being a bore the characters just didn't strike a chord with me enough to care. That said, my son has already informed that we'll need to buy the Blu-ray as soon as it streets, he loved it. 2.5 outta 5