Thursday, July 21, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Okay, so Transformers: Dark of the Moon kind of sucked.  It had all the destruction I could ask for, but it was long and had way too much of what the filmmakers considered "humor" and "plot."  What a let down!  Where's a guy supposed to find a movie about aliens blowing up a US city this summer?  Well...Battle: Los Angeles recently hit DVD.  It couldn't be worse than Transformers 3, could it?  Oh, it's directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the man behind Darkness Falls?  Maybe I spoke too soon.

US Marine Staff Sergent (apparently abbreviated SSgt.) Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has a severe case of Roger Murtaugh Syndrome.
He's getting too old for this shit.
Not only is he too old, but he even put in his retirement papers!  Today!  Man, I'm going to miss that guy.  Sure, he lost his entire battalion during his last tour of Iraq and all the newbies consider him the Grim Reaper, but he's a pretty nice guy.  It's just too bad that, this close to retirement, a bunch of meteorites crash into the Earth, only a few miles away from most major port cities.  America prepares for some Deep Impact special effects, but they never come.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that the "meteorites" were actually spaceships carrying alien infantry soldiers, bent on destroying humanity. 
Yeah.  I know.  Aliens.  Shit.
SSgt. Nantz is forced back into action under 2nd Lieutenant Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), who has never seen combat, and his crew of green marines.  Their mission is to clear civilians from a certain perimeter in LA before the US launches an air strike that will annihilate the aliens.  But then, it turns out that the aliens look like this:
Oh, and they have alien technology, which kills lots of people.  And it turns out that they have an air force, too, which negates the whole air strike plan.  With his team decimated and humanity quickly approaching extinction, what is SSgt. Nantz to do?

With all the explosions and aliens, I wasn't really expecting much from the actors in this movie.  They didn't give me much, but I was surprised that the acting was decent.  Aaron Eckhart was fine as the conflicted lead, even if this part was written more for someone with the acting range of Jean-Claude Van Damme than a Golden Globe nominee.  Ramon Rodriguez was predictable as the cocky noob leader that loses his composure when things start to go wrong.  Michelle Rodriguez (no relation) played against type by taking the part of an Air Force strategist (or something); of course, it turns out that she's a total bad-ass.  The rest of the cast is pretty inconsequential.  Michael Pena was okay as a concerned father, Bridget Moynahan was a tough lady veterinarian, and Joey King cried a lot as a frightened little girl.  The military cannon fodder supporting cast included such luminaries as career TV bit players Noel Fisher and Jim Parrack, R&B singer Ne-Yo, and Cory Hardrict.  No one was awful, and many characters either spoke little or died horrible deaths.
Does this mean that Two-Face was a result of PTSD?

I was shocked to find that this film was directed by the incompetent Jonathan Liebesman.  While this isn't French New Wave or anything fancy like that, I thought this movie was shot well enough to tell a story.  That might not sound impressive to you, but being mediocre was far from his grasp in the last film of his I watched.  No, the acting isn't great, but it suits its purpose.  This is a movie with mostly unemotional soldiers being attacked by aliens.  Do I need feelings and fancy camera work, or do I need cool-looking alien stuff and lots of explosions?  You're damn right (assuming you went with aliens and boomsplosions)!  The special effects are solid, the action is dirty and gritty, and the aliens don't make me laugh.  There aren't many moments that will wow you, but it's still a solid sci-fi flick.

For what it is, Battle: Los Angeles is a surprisingly decent movie.  It's not intelligent, ground-breaking, or totally awesome, but it tells a story and provides some brainless entertainment, especially for fans of military movies.  Battle: LA spends a lot of time on the bond of trust between soldiers and their leaders, and even if some of it is a little cheesy (and it is), it is effective, in a testosterone-filled, never-speak-your-feelings sort of way.  Maybe I just came into this one with super-low expectations, but I'm going to say this was better than average.


  1. Was it just me or did it seem like there were about 12-15 people in their group, 20+ died and a handful survived? The math did not seem to add up.

  2. Yeah, I agree. They did get a refill on their expendable characters after the initial fight, but it seemed like there were a lot more casualties than characters. Still, better than Transformers.

  3. I didn't expect much from this movie but I have to say it's just totally AMAZING, in my opinion much better than for example the Independence day. The alien technology looks a bit obsolete in some scenes which is a great idea I think, the whole movie is a non-stop action without deaf places, just the way this style movie should look like

  4. That's a good call on the alien tech. I would call it "amazing," but it is definitely much better than I expected.

    If this movie had our greatest president, Bill Pullman, deliver a damn fine inspirational speech, I could see it almost contending with ID4.