Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

It's the end of the world in Battle: Los Angeles as aliens strike the fair city with forceful tenacity.  Ripping off nearly every disaster movie plus War of the Worlds, Alien, District 9 and Black Hawk Down, there isn't a cue or cliche that Battle: Los Angeles doesn't miss, everything is expected, from the jerky camera shots, debris-filled landscapes, and easily identifiable character ploys.  Yet, for stretches (especially in the middle), the film is actually kind of enjoyable-- leaner and tighter than it has any right to be, and in small doses pleasurable in it's cheesiness.  The problems arise when the film abandons the cheese, the goes down the road of self-importance with forced emotional interludes and an irritating sense of pro-military propaganda.  When what should have been firmly more embraced was that gleeful sense of doom, it would have helped a lot if Shelley Winters had been available.  That's the nature of cheese-- it should never be subdued; make it large and make it grand.  Just because the world is ending means we should lose our sense of humor.

First we meet our hero, Staff Sargent Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), he's a longtime Marine with a painful backstory close to retirement on for one more fight, we've meet this character before in every action\heist movie ever made.  His loyal team includes a newbie, small and virginal, a soldier undergoing therapy visits desperate to get back in the field, a young man grieving the loss of his brother (which conveniently relates to Nantz's painful backstory), and so on and so forth...all the players are nearly interchangeable and only decipherable by cliche; they might as well have been named "Sleepy" and "Dopey" and "Moody,"  The fun begins soon as newly detected meteors are detected hitting the Earth at rapid speed in LA and nearly every other major city on the globe, but we're only interested in LA, otherwise the title wouldn't make much sense.  Except these aren't meteors, but aliens intent on crushing mankind, so the Marines step in...they're the only ones who can save us you see, and the Marine recruitment sci-fi action extravaganza starts to tease us with mayhem, getting are juices flowing for the money shot of pure F\X destruction, there is a small dash of that palpable, adrenaline busting sense of "what the fuck."

We unfortunately never really get it, we get a mildly pleasurable middle section of getting our characters from Point A to Point B, but the pure cheesy money shot never happens.  Our brave Marines dash from one LA spot to another, and in Ten Little Indians style, many die.  Part of the problem is the aliens themselves, they're so arbitrarily designed and plotted.  We get their big and bad (a bit about genetic artillery is shamelessly stolen from District 9), but never feel their evilness, any film must always remember that the villain needs to be loved to be hated.  I recognize it's pointless to really criticize a film like this, of course the film-loving pretentious type are suppose to hate such obvious popcorn junk, but there's a bit of longing, not this would ever be a great film, but it could have been meatier junk food.  C+

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