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BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011)

>> Friday, March 11, 2011

I'm goin' to LA! Maybe not...

It's been said that in 2013 we'll be getting a sequel to 1996's awesome-tastic Independence Day. Until then, we're going to have to sit through movies like last year's dreadful Skyline, the anxiously awaited Paul (in theatres next weekend), and of course - Battle: LA. That stated, is Battle: LA really on par with the great alien-invasion movies of all time? Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), no. While Battle: LA tries it's hardest to meet all the criteria of a good invasion flick, it falls short on a couple notes, and relies on a few too many clich├ęs.

SSgt. Michael Nantz (played by the always decent Aaron Eckhart) is about to retire from the US Marine Corps as he feels like he's getting too old - which can be deduced from the fact that he runs like a little girl, apparently. But wouldn't you know it - he's called away from his retirement plans as LA gets hit with the a bad case of the ET-Invadies. What do these aliens want? One scientist assumes it must be our liquid water as the earth is covered with so much of it - a welcome change from the aquaphobic entities that attacked in Signs (2002).

In an effort to clear out the large area of Santa Monica in which the aliens are invading (not the first time in United States history, I've heard), the US decides to go and Hiroshima the place to eliminate the enemy threat. Before that can happen, though, they send in Nantz and his men to search for any remaining survivors in the area and get them back to FOB (Forward Operating Base). The clincher: they only have three hours to do it before they and any remaining survivors are vaporized. The big questions fill out the remainder of the plot: Do they make it? What do the aliens really want? Can mankind stop a technologically advanced species? What are the ramifications of such an interaction? Why the hell aren't people more in awe of the fact they aren't alone in the universe? Unfortunately, a lot of those questions aren't answered. As for the ones that are - you kinda don't really care by the end.

When it comes to alien movies (especially those that try and be realistic), I've always preferred the kind that try and involve some form of politics and a deeper lesson aside from the one that states "Let's kick some alien ass!". Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) did it, as did Contact (1997), Mission to Mars (2000) and District 9 (2009). With Battle: LA, you get less 'wonder' and more 'Who cares? What about the American peoples' right to fight?!'. I mean, it's good to be patriotic and all, but you know you've gone too far when it starts to feel like you're watching a recruitment video for the US Marine Corps.

Battle: Los Angeles gets a closed door. While the action is promising and the effects are extremely well done, the plot is grossly underdeveloped and director Johnathan Liebesman relies far too much on cheesy emotional cues to get us through the dragging story. It doesn't take more than the first half hour to know whats going on, and I feel the film is trying to be more about the journey of the human spirit than the destination. In the case of Battle: LA, the only destination I began to care about was one involving the end credits.

*Stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures

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