A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.
The Black Saint is a reasonable saint. I am willing to ignore stupid dialogue & plot holes big enough to drive the space shuttle through if the movie is enjoyable. There are lots of “Bad” good movies, you know what I mean. Movies that are bad but enjoyable enough to warrant paying whatever your local bijou is charging for admission. Much to my chagrin, “Battle L.A.” is not one of these films.
Last year’s “Skyline” was directed by a couple of hacks named The Strause Brothers. They were responsible for the atrocious “Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem”. You remember that one don’t you? That was the one where you couldn’t see the creatures battling each other cause it was so f*cking dark all the time. These numbnuts are special effects experts, that they do well for sure as “Skyline” showed. But directors? Get the f*ck outta here!! Apparently they were responsible for the special effects work in “Battle: L.A.” it is impressive. The scuttlebutt going round Hollywood was that they took their fee for working on “Battle..” & used it to produce “Skyline”, which is basically the same film on a smaller scale. “Skyline” had a $10 million dollar budget, “Battle..” has a $100+ million budget. This just goes to show that money doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have a story to justify the cost of the film because “Battle..” is a mess. A big friggin’ mess.
The action pretty much starts off right away when meteors start landing in the ocean just off of Japan. Soon these meteors start hitting major cities all around the globe. Essentially cutting off communications between these cities all over the world. It’s too bad the aliens who are arriving in the meteors didn’t realize there is something called the internet here on Earth because soldiers do find computers amidst all of the rubble that L.A. has become. We are given a cursory introduction to all of the main characters before they go off to their training exercises before war is declared. But we learn little about them except that one of them might be mentally imbalanced & another one of them is going to have a baby (guess what happens to him). “Skyline” had the same problem but since there were only a few main characters in the film audiences didn’t care. “Battle..” is played out on a much bigger scale & has a few more characters to try to connect with.
But there’s no time for characterization here because this movie is all about the effect work & nothing else. The script by Christopher Bertolini, introduces us to the characters & then promptly throws them (And us) to the wolves. Big mistake. A big movie like this has to find time to make us care about somebody in the cast. A character we can sympathize with. There is a minor effort made to do this with a civilian father & his son who are caught in the middle of the mess but as soon as they are introduced, you know what’s going to happen to them. No surprises are to be found in this movie at all. It is a “Connect The Dots” type of movie that doesn’t try to attain any modicum of common sense or reason.
The next problem I have with this clunker is the “shaky cam” approach to filmmaking that is becoming far too prevalent for my tastes as of late. Not that it makes me nauseous or anything, but I know a lot of people it does nauseate. It just seems to me that it’s being misused by directors nowadays. I understand why it’s being used in this film but it could have been made without it just as efficiently, has Hollywood forgotten about the Steadicam? It is a pretty useful tool guys, try to get back to it.
The “Skyline” connection becomes a little more pronounced when you see the aliens. Or should I say when you don’t see the aliens. In “Skyline”, we see the aliens eventually. In “”Battle..” we don’t see the aliens faces at all. That’s right, we do not see the faces of Earth’s aggressors at all in this movie. This might be a first in the annals of Sci-Fi films. There have been films where we don’t see the aliens faces in films until the very end or maybe briefly in the middle, but not at all? I can’t think of one (& I tried). They wear a sort of armor with heads that are shaped like The Black Manta of Aquaman fame (Which is actually kind of cool). Oddly enough, their legs look to be mechanical so perhaps they’re a type of bio-mechanical menace. We do see that they have guts during a ridiculous vivisection scene where Aaron Eckhart takes it upon himself to open a dead one up to find it’s vulnerable spot because they take a lot of damage before they go down. Eckhart & Michelle Rodriguez are the nominal “Stars” of the film but in all honesty they don’t have much to do but yell a lot & play soldier games with CGI aliens. Also in the cast is R n’ B singer Ne-Yo as a marine. He doesn’t have much to do either but strangely enough, throughout all of the carnage (& there is a LOT of carnage), his glasses never break. The entire city of Los Angeles is rubble but Ne-Yo’s glasses are intact? Yeah, that can happen.
Another beef I have with this movie is the design of the spacecraft. Whatever happened to nice, streamlined flying saucers? As of late, alien spacecraft have looked like so much piecemeal. Lots & lots of little model kit pieces put together to form a spaceship that doesn’t seem like it can fly. There is a great resemblance to the mothership in this movie & the one in “Skyline”. Something the Strause brothers have to be called to the mat for. The motherships are virtually identical in design with some very slight alterations between the two. That’s just laziness on the Strause’s part.
The biggest problem with the movie is that all it seems to be is a military exercise education film shot on a $100 million dollar budget. There is literally nothing but explosions and bullets flying to & fro after the first 10 minutes. Dialogue is basically of the “MAN DOWN”!!, “WE ARE MARINES”!! & “HOO-AH” variety. Director Jonathan Hensleigh had very little to do if you ask me. Once he yelled “Action”!, all that happenes is he got marines to go from location “A” to location “B” yelling at each other all the while. The aliens are here for our water & can seemingly refuel their aircraft with water also. Well, at least they picked the right planet for that. They land in the water & attack from out of the ocean a lot like the soldiers in “Saving Private Ryan”.
The movie looks great though & the special effects, though familiar are well executed. The wreckage that L.A. becomes is very convincing indeed. I only wish the filmmakers had a better story to go along with the fine visuals. There is a sense of despair as the film continues. It’s not going well for our characters & it doesn’t seem to be getting any better until the big “Eureka” moment towards the end of the movie (which is a big rip from “Independence Day” by the way). All of the actors do the best that they can with what few lines they’re given & Eckhart does have the “Weatherbeaten Soldier” look down pat but I wonder why Michelle Rodriguez seems to be in all of these war films as the “Tough Female”? Granted she is a bad mamma jamma but she’s also pretty darn fine looking as well. I’d like to see her in a comedy or a drama where she can act without dirt on her face or a gun in her hand someday.
In the end, “Battle L.A.” is an amalgam of “Independence Day”, “Black Hawk Down” mixed with a dash of “The Magnificent Seven” that just doesn’t gel properly. In fact, the trailer for the film plays a lot better than the actual movie. That’s just sad. If you’re in the mood for a mindless sci-fi/war romp, then this film is for you. But even with all of the sturm & drang going on, there are parts that are actually a little boring, that is nearly criminal in the case of this film & the promise that the trailers showed. Bad movie…BAD MOVIE!! The Black Saint is giving “Battle: L.A.” 1 1/2 shrouds & that’s for it’s visuals. A story to go along with it might have garnered a 3-4 shroud rating. But that’s just the way the aliens land sometimes, ain’t it?
It’s only going to get worse for me this weekend because I’m slated to take the young saint to see “Mars Needs Moms” this weekend…What are the odds I’m going to like it better than “Battle: L.A.”? I fear that those are going to be some pretty bad odds….Oh well, such is life. Until next time acolytes, remember to say your prayers. You know I’m always listening. The Black Saint has now left the building..