Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
I recently decided to catch up with Battle: Los Angeles. I didn’t bother to see this film upon its initial release, because it struck me as just another generic, sci-fi action movie and I didn’t feel that merited the price of a cinema ticket. However, there are times when you want some easy entertainment, so tracked the film down on one of the VOD platforms I subscribed to. As I suspected, Battle: Los Angeles is a broad, mainstream, big budget action film that requires you to check your brain and sense of incredulity at the door. If you do so, you will be presented with two hours of formulaic entertainment that has the occasional flash of inspiration. I won't bother to list the by the numbers characters and plot line. You can more than likely predict these yourself. I will in the spirit of fairness focus on what I think are the good points.
In the early stages of the film there is a great deal of plot exposition regarding the invasion, done via faux news footage. This is far from a new idea but it works quite well in this instance. TV is the means by which most people become aware and experience major catastrophes these days and this angle certainly added some realism. Director Jonathan Liebesman's decision to focus on the story from the ground forces point of view is a smart one. Despite the films large budget, this approach makes the story far more small scale and intimate. There is also a rather clever scene where the Marines find a wounded invader and rather than go down the clichéd route of trying to communicate with it, they simply try to find its weak spots and major organs. They subsequently butcher it. Irrespective of moral and ethics, this is a credible plot development.
Unfortunately, these engaging elements of Battle: Los Angeles are somewhat spread out among less creative material. The reticence to show the invaders is taken a little too far and the PG-13 rating means that the action lacks any real threat or shock. There is also the recurring Hollywood predilection to depict soldiers in a somewhat ill-disciplined light. I'm sure this isn’t the case in reality, especially in the prestigious and select units such as the US Marine Corp. It is also probably best to not start listing the major plot holes especially with regard to the invaders tactics. I would also like to point out that the whole "shaky cam" technique is well past its sell by date. Yes, it can on occasions create an artificial sense of reality but if it is used to the extent where observing what is actually happening is impossible, then it has patently failed as a cinematic technique.
Battle: Los Angeles is the embodiment of disposable entertainment. A few novel ideas help make the whole experience a little more palatable. Aaron Eckhart is a sufficiently robust actor to be able to carry the story and Michelle Rodriguez is far less bellicose than here usual screen persona. The main selling point is the films focus on experiencing the alien invasion from a front-line soldier’s point of view. However, it can be argued that the opening and closing scenes of Gareth Edwards Monsters did an equally comparable job of a tenth of the budget. Battle: Los Angeles is adequate filler if you have a few hours to kill and you want some dynamic, visual effects driven entertainment that requires little or no thought. If you want more than this then best look elsewhere.