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Thursday, March 17, 2011



Battle: Los Angeles, which will henceforth be called Battle: LA for simplicity's sake, is a 2011 sci-fi action flick directed by Jonathan Liebesman. It follows a platoon of Marines as they engage in an all-out war against an extra-terrestrial enemy. When meteors begin to fall near major cities all over the planet - including Los Angeles - millions of people begin to be evacuated. However, these falling objects are soon identified as alien creations that soon begin to attack and destroy everything in their path. Enter Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a well-known and often-awarded Marine on the verge of retirement, who is placed into a platoon of younger soldiers as they enter into battle. Their mission is to reach an abandoned police station where civilians may or may not be hiding; they are then to extract the civilians and bring them to safety. As they enter the city, they immediately encounter this alien presence, and the fight for their lives - as well as the lives of the civilians they find - begins.

I'd like to start by talking about my personal hype going into this film. When I first saw the above trailer, I had a reaction similar to the one I had with 2010's Skyline. Well, slightly. The above trailer actually scared the hell out of me. Living in L.A. County gives me a little bit of a different viewing of Battle: LA than someone who would be watching it in, say, New York. As I watched the events unfold onscreen, I recognized a number of areas, and it made it all hit home a little bit more than the aforementioned New Yorker might take it. Such are the benefits of living in a major media market, I suppose. However, I only got those feelings of fear and dread from the trailer, not from the movie itself. The resonating tones of the electronic song provided with the trailer helped to enhance its eeriness, setting the stage for a potentially haunting flick about an alien invasion. Sadly, that didn't carry over into the actual film.

The above synopsis is about as good as I could possibly give without getting into grand specifics. The movie is essentially a story of heroism, patriotism and survival. We watch as the soldiers go from one battle to the next, losing some friends here and there (sorry if that gives anything away, but if you really go into the movie thinking they're all gonna make it, you might be a tad too naïve). There's really just not much a story here, but it's not like I was expecting there to be one. It's not the type of movie that's going to be forwarded by the plot - it's more character and special effects-driven, and in that, it's moderately successful.

That being said, I did have a couple of issues with the "screenplay." As I've said in past blogs, a screenplay is composed of story plus dialogue. As there's little to no real story, a lot of the screenplay's effectiveness comes down to the believability of the dialogue. While most of the dialogue fits relatively well, we do have a couple of lines that will leave you with your eyes rolling. And as much as I hate to say it, most of those particular lines come from Aaron Eckhart, one of my favorite actors in recent years. He's usually quite good, but he just can't quite deliver this time around. Yeah, he doesn't have much to work with, but his delivery was downright laughable at times. There's also a very strange progression of time. One minute, it's the middle of the night, and the next, it'll be broad daylight. I was never quite sure how much time had passed from scene to scene, and it threw me off a little bit. I also thought that Battle: LA borrowed a little too readily from past films. I could easily pick out a number of lines and scenes that almost perfectly mimicked the likes of 1996's Independence Day and 2001's Black Hawk Down, just to name a couple. Had I paid a little closer attention, I'd probably have more to list.

Most of the rest of the cast does well with what they're given. Nobody's absolutely awful, so that's always a plus. There are a few easily recognizable faces hidden within Battle: LA. Be on the lookout for Ne-Yo, Noel Fisher, Bridget Moynahan (in a cameo), Michelle Rodriguez and Michael Peña. Can I just take one minute and say something about Michael Peña? I don't know what it is about him, but I kinda love the guy. He's never really had a megastar role, but every time I see him pop up in a film, it always brings a smile to my face. It's not even that he's that great of an actor, but something about him just makes a movie a little bit better. Maybe it's his real-ness. He just seems like he fits. And he's definitely the best part of Battle: LA, so if there's any reason to see it, it's for him.

I know I'm kinda berating this movie a little bit, and I'd just like to say that my opinion happens to be the opinion of only one person. There's absolutely no reason to think that you might not like the movie based off my personal taste. For example, there was a woman sitting a few seats away from me who was more into Battle: LA than I've ever seen anyone into any other movie. She was clapping and cheering and on the edge of her seat. She threw her hands in the air and over her mouth. It was like she was actually in the movie, she was so into what was going on onscreen. So people have enjoyed this movie. And it was the top-grossing film last weekend, so people are actually seeing it. I personally don't know how I feel about it - it has its pros and its cons - but there's no reason to think you won't love it just because I didn't.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: C-
Thumbs Sideways

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