Take one part “Black Hawk Down”, mix it with one part “Independence Day”, sprinkle in a dash of “District 9” and you get “Battle: Los Angeles”, a summer popcorn sci-fi action flick that finds itself being exhibited in the wrong season.
Unfortunately “Battle: LA” is not as good as the above named films. Add that in with being out of place in its’ release date and you have a couple of large hurdles to jump right out of the opening gates.
Coming off of Oscar season you would figure a film like this would be just the right thing but we aren’t ready for it and the filmmakers weren’t ready to properly execute it.
The films starts off ridden with cliche after cliche. A battle hardened veteran staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart doing his best with what he’s got) is handing in his retirement papers to his beloved Marines. He did his “20” and he is losing his connection with the younger soldiers. The staff sgt. announces this as meteors are entering the earth’s atmosphere. With that happening it’s time to mobilize the troops because, what the Marines know and the public doesn’t, the meteors are slowing down and not hitting the oceans at terminal velocity.
That right there is a fun little piece of science fiction to chew on. Meteors are slowing down so that must mean they are being driven. Piloted by some type of extra-terrestrial life. And they are hitting off the coasts of major cities around the world. The invasion is ala “ID-4”.
The other events in the beginning of the film I was really not enjoying was the fifteen minutes of getting to know these soldiers in their home and Marine lives. One has a pregnant wife and is just starting his career as an officer in the corps. Another is a virgin, chugging to much beer and learning the hard way (as we all have at some point) that too much booze will go out the same way it went in. Another soldier is planning his wedding before his next deployment into combat. Well, he is more or less planning it, I’d say he is lovingly participating by following his excited fiance on the wedding errands. The thing that doesn’t work about all of this is that they never go back and visit these stories again. So what is the point in giving us these small tales if they don’t give you some closure. Did the one soldier’s pregnant wife survive, with baby intact. Did the other man’s wife make it through the invasion and ensuing battle. Due to this stunning omission of these other story lines it makes you wonder why the film didn’t just start off with the invasion. That would’ve been fresh and a lot more fun.
When the invasion starts we have the ol’ stereotypical shake battle cam ala “Jason Bourne” director Paul Greengrass. But at times it feels like they stuck the camera in a paint can shaker. It’s hard to really focus on the action or the details. My pet peece is when the action is lost because over an over zealous director trying to give us the feeling that we are there. But having Michael J. Fox for a camera operator can take away from our investment in the story.
At least they focused on the story of one platoon’s mission. Get to a police station, within the blast radius of the military’s missile strike against the alien invaders, and extract the civilians that put our a distress call. We follow the platoon through the streets of LA where they get into skirmishes with the alien baddies. Each turn brings another danger, a new challenge, and our seasoned Staff Sgt. is taking orders from a hesitant, rookie lieutenant.
The cast is o.k., not great. The writing is the same. The special effects are lacking which really hurts the film. In order to have really make an excellent finished product they should’ve chopped out the pointless beginning, designed some better aliens, held the camera on the action, and spent more time and money in post production polishing the C.G.I. And a tip to the filmmakers, do not have an alien autopsy to find out how to kill the aliens when they seemed to be dropping dead from gunfire before that scene. It makes no sense at all.
All in all, “District 9” has raised our standards and expectations for modern science fiction films and “Battle: LA” doesn’t live up to it.
** 1/2 (out of *****)Tags: Aaron Eckhart, aliens, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Michelle Rodriguez, science fiction