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Battle: Los Angeles - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Battle: Los Angeles
Directing: C+
Acting: B+
Writing: C-
Cinematography: D
Editing: C-
Special Effects: C+

Earth to Hollywood: If an alien race ever actually does invade Earth with the sole intention of colonization, we're toast. Period! How many of these movies in which some intrepid military soldier finds the one weak spot in an alien "central command," and thus leads the world in defeating the enemy, do you have to make?

Fifteen years ago there was a film virtually identical to this in both theme and plot pivot points; it was called Independence Day. But there are two key differences between that film and this one. First, Independence Day managed to put a fresh spin on an age-old story. Second, Independence Day was playful -- it sent up the cliches of alien-invasion movies while at the same time happily embracing them.

Battle: Los Angeles takes itself way too seriously, and this is a doubly fatal flaw when so many of its cinematic decisions are patently misguided. It would be one thing if instead of being a fun action movie, it went the route of being a scary-alien movie instead. But what director Jonathan Liebesman has made is a War Movie -- with aliens. It doesn't quite work. It's like he wanted to make a two-hour version of the Normandy invasion scene from Saving Private Ryan, but with bipedal semi-mechanical squid-like creatures instead of Nazis.

In fact, most of the story here is about going into "enemy territory" and saving someone -- in this case, a few civilians who have sent out a distress call from a police station in the middle of the vast, devastated part of town. This after a few introductory scenes depicting the meteor-shower-like arrival of the aliens in the ocean just off the coast of California, intercut with specific introductions to each one of the Marines who will be sent in to find these people and get them back out. The most significant one to the story is Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart, giving a far better performance than this movie deserves).

An inevitable tragedy occurs, and Nantz has to give the requisite "buck=up speech," both to a little boy who has lost his father and to his much fewer remaining Marines. It gets weepy, and emotionally manipulative in the most traditional-Hollywood sense possible, and I'm sitting in my chair thinking of the "My Dad Died In the Chimney" scene from Gremlins. What the hell is the point of this? Get to the good stuff!

And contrary to what some other critics might say, there is some good stuff in the film -- some great aerial shots of a burning Los Angeles, although it's always, always clearly CGI. But it's still fun to look at. The real problem is in the cinematography and the editing, which makes you feel like you're watching a half-assed Alien Hawk Down. Every single great shot is but a second or so long, because every shot comes and goes in the blink of an eye -- this entire film is edited like it's an extended movie trailer. You never once get the chance to truly soak in what you're looking at.

It becomes the optical equivalent of white noise so quickly that, honestly, about halfway through the film I checked out. I stopped even trying to care, because it was taking too much effort. You might as well just let your eyes glaze over and you'll get the same effect. Presumably the intention was an immersive effect, something to make you feel like you are watching something actually happening -- clearly the influence of far superior films like Cloverfield (which, granted, had nothing but vapid characters, but at least the footage was mesmerizing).

In the end, there is not one single original element to Battle: Los Angeles. This kind of thing can be compensated for in other films with things like snappy dialog and a well-placed sprinkling of humor (see: District 9), but this has none of either. It's lavishly dedicated to the "Battle" in the title, for that's all it is -- from beginning to end. But with so much shaky camera work, rapid=fire editing, and set designs consisting of about 70% smoke that you can hardly make sense of what you're seeing. Far too many times we get close-ups of characters looking at something they are clearly perceiving to be extraordinary, but when the camera cuts to what they're looking at, there's never a clear, extended shot of what the hell they're seeing.

Battle: Los Angeles is really just an exercise in frustration. Oddly committed and solid performances all around notwithstanding, I would not want to inflict it upon anyone.

The aliens should have just pinpointed on Hollywood in 'Battle: Los Angeles', which makes a strong case for its utter worthlessness.

Overall: C-
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