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Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

March 14, 2011

VERDICT:
3/10 Recruitment Tools

Perfect for anyone who hates stories and wishes every movie was more like Call of Duty.

Battle: Los Angeles takes place in a near future where aliens strategically crash land in some of Earth’s largest cities and begin running train on us humans so that they can take over and drain our oceans dry since H20 is their version of diesel fuel. Standing in their way is a platoon of Marines who storm into South Central with guns blazing so that they can take these mofos out and let them know the hard way that they messed with the wrong planet, but since these aliens outnumber them like gangbusters and also happen to have space guns grafted into their bodies, it ends up being a pretty tough battle…Los Angeles.

So there were two things that initially peaked my interest about this movie and for some reason made me want to go see it: the trailer that ended up being infinitely better than the final product and the back story of sorts that was tied into real-life events. If that second part is news, the events I’m referring to apparently took place way back in ’42 when the US military unloaded some anti-aircraft artillery off the coast of LA, gave the public no explanation for it, and so folks now think it was an alien invasion. So I guess this movie is about how the aliens have come back to kick our asses because we lit them up back during WWII, but who knows.

The problem is that no one in the movie ever mentions the supposed E.T. cover-up even though it was supposedly the inspiration for this movie. I don’t know why that is, maybe I just imagined that connection in a dream, but either way, the fact that it’s completely ignored is kinda beyond me. Although what’s worse is that it this movie would have been much better off had that aspect been included and it would have been a really easy problem to solve, too. Just put up some text before the opening credits about how aliens once showed up at Long Beach to catch some rays, they turned tail the moment we asked for their beach passes with a fleet of tanks in tow, and now they’re back because we were such buzzkills about the whole thing. Sure, it doesn’t have to be that fancy, but something, anything would have been an improvement.

Instead, we get nothing. Granted, you don’t usually go into a movie like this looking for some seriously thought-provoking shit, but one does expect thoughts, period. This here is a first-person shooter, a run-and-gunner with the attention span of Mr. Short-Term Memory and the depth of a shot glass to boot. I mean, I’m all for mindless entertainment every once in a while, but this is crazy. The only story going for it is that aliens invade and the Jarheads are gonna fight ’em back, and the next two hours is watching them do just that, nothing more. Just an infinitesimal amount of substance to be found here and it adds nothing to what we’ve already seen from these kinds of movies. No body snatching, no Will Smith, no nothing, and who needs that?

And, man, it kills me to see Aaron Eckhart in this movie. This is Nick Naylor, this is the guy whose career should have skyrocketed into the stratosphere from the moment production wrapped on In the Company of Men. He’s one of those actors who has all the potential to be an A-lister and an Oscar contender, but he keeps on shooting himself in the foot by signing up for shit like this. The problem with him here as Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz isn’t that he’s a bad actor, it’s that he’s taking the role so damn seriously. Then again, all his co-stars from Michelle Rodriguez to Ne-Yo (once again proving my theory that giving major roles to rappers is an almost foolproof way to turn your movie into a walking punchline) are also on the bandwagon and absolutely everything about this movie takes itself so damn seriously in a setting that’s about as plausible as a man vs. aliens invasion in L.A. It’s too bad because there is some potential in the idea of “Black Hawk Down, but with aliens instead of Somalis”, but since director Jonathan Liebesman has no fucking clue how to tap into that potential because he’s too busy trying to cook up a new boss fight for his Marines to get into, the whole thing backfires horribly.

With that being said, the icing on the cake really is this gem of a script by Christopher Bertolini. Talk about phoning it in, man. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard so much macho, corny, bi-curious bullshit crammed into one place. Because this is about Marines and apparently this is how Marines talk, every other sentence whether it be about buying groceries or picking your nose has to end with an “Ooh-rah!”, and every time someone tries to show their softer side because there’s always time for that on the battlefield, they end up sounding like Mary Poppins in urban camo. Bertolini uses every cliche in the book whether its on the battlefield or off, and there were a couple heart-to-hearts between emotional Marines where they got so over-dramatic and so up in each others’ faces that I was absolutely convinced they would start making out within the next five seconds. It’s bad, really effing bad, but the worst part is that it negates everything about this movie that should have been fun because it all winds up feeling stupid and cheesy. Ugh, how do you fuck this up? Such an easy formula to follow at this point.

Folks, if I were in the Marine Corps, I’d be pissed to have my livelihood associated with Battle-fucking-Los Angeles. It can’t be easy to make Marines look like chumps – especially when you’re intent is to make them look cool – but somehow this crew did it with flying colors, and what’s worse is that a lot of this feels like funded by the USMC in the hopes of getting teens to enlist or something. The special effects are good and the action has its moments, but when you keep screwing the pooch with awfully convenient cliches and a script that replaces any trace of story with testosterone levels that rival a Village People concert, it ain’t worth a damn. Doesn’t help that the aliens look like the Black Manta covered in Jell-O, either. I’m sure there’s a target audience for this kind of thing, probably the 13-year-old boys in the crowd who take twice as much pleasure in watching other people play video games as they do playing themselves, but other than that, this movie flat-out blows.

So if this is your first time seeing an alien invasion movie or if this is your first time seeing a movie in general, you might just have yourself a freakin’ time. But for the rest of us would rather just play Call of Duty or reminisce about how awesome it would be if Bull Pullman actually was the President of the United States, save your time and money. Alien invasions should never be this boring.

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 12:06 am

    Ha ha…since I’ve seen a movie or two and own CoD, I guess I’ll pass.

  2. March 14, 2011 12:34 am

    I’m gonna get a shit ton of flak for this, but I actually enjoyed it. Sure, it’s loud, dumb, and devoid of all humanity, but I thought it was infinitely better than anyone expected it to be. (Granted, we didn’t expect anything at all, so that’s not saying very much.)

    I thought Eckhart really stood out, but in a good way. He did a good job with the character and grounded the film with what minimalistic emotion he had to work with. And hey, his last few movies include THE DARK KNIGHT and RABBIT HOLE, as well as THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. He’s not one to shy away from quality, and I’d definitely say he’s A list. I mean, this movie did make a shit ton of money this weekend.

    It’s not a masterpiece, but it was a lot of fun. Look, it was a whole hell of a lot better than SKYLINE, which is alright in my book.

    Although, all this could just be coming from my subconscious desire to see LA blown into tiny little pieces of rock and surfer dude. Such is a symptom of living in San Francisco.

    My review should be up by the time you read this, so, hop on over for more in depth analysis.

    • March 14, 2011 7:48 am

      Alright, I didn’t see Skyline and I heard it was rough so I’ve got no base for comparison in that regard, but on its own, it was a major letdown. I wish I had had more fun with it, but the thing I forgot to mention in the review that also killed it for me was that I could not have cared less about these characters. Didn’t care if they lived, died, beat the aliens or whatever. They were shells of actual human beings and they were just there for cheesy, macho heroism. Ugh, fuck it, giving this way more thought than it deserves.

      And as for Eckhart, he was fine as Dent and I heard he hammed it up like gangbusters in Rabbit Hole, but he was so effing good in Thank You For Smoking. Still, go watch In the Company of Men and you’ll get what I’m talking about.

      Think we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one, but will check out your review, homey.

  3. Hal permalink
    March 14, 2011 1:32 am

    You shoulda seen “Certified Copy” this weekend instead.

    • March 14, 2011 1:14 pm

      I’ve just heard of the name, know nothing else about it. Will look into it now though, thanks for the heads up, man.

      • March 14, 2011 1:42 pm

        I posted the trailer a couple of weeks ago: http://wp.me/pxXPC-2TM Definitely looks eons better than this one, and a whole lot of quieter too I’d imagine 🙂

      • March 14, 2011 2:01 pm

        Awesome! Never seen Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, but I’ve heard great things so the connection definitely counts for something. Guess I’ve gotta check this movie out!

  4. peter permalink
    March 14, 2011 1:38 am

    Not worth it if someone paid you to see it, absolute junk.

  5. March 14, 2011 2:37 am

    I’m gonna see this next weekend, and I’m a little bummed you hated it so much. Still, at least you didn’t try mentioning District 9 in the same review, so I guess I can thank you for for that! I’ll be back to revisit this review after I’ve seen the film!
    Stay tuned!

    • March 14, 2011 1:16 pm

      Haha. Sorry to be the buzzkill, man. Wasn’t a huge fan of District 9 myself, but that’s like 2001 compared to this. Looking forward to hearing what you think though.

  6. March 14, 2011 3:04 am

    Ouch, 3 out of 10?

    Like you, I was excited to see it because I thought the trailer had something going for it. A bit of intelligence is NOT too much to ask for an alien invasion movie. But I have to ask–is this better than “Skyline”?

    I’m kind of curious to see it for myself because of this line you wrote:

    “I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard so much macho, corny, bi-curious bullshit crammed into one place.”

    Hahah!

    • March 14, 2011 1:17 pm

      Didn’t see Skyline, can’t say, but since that has an even lower rating than this on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m gonna guess “YES”.

      If you’re gonna see it, see it drunk. That’s the best advice I can give.

  7. March 14, 2011 9:32 am

    Ouch. That is disappointing as I was quite looking forward to this. As you say, if it’s like Call Of Duty all the way through, there’s a large audience that is going to love this. But I think, if there’s little character/story there, I’ll end up with a similar view as you.

    • March 14, 2011 1:57 pm

      Yeah, this is definitely catering to a specific audience that probably plays Yu Gi Oh every day at lunch. Astounding how little effort got put into this script.

  8. March 14, 2011 1:45 pm

    Well at least reading your review is entertaining, Aiden, but I’ll stay away from this from the cinema. Not even sure I want to rent this now. I read a scathing review from Ebert this weekend and he’s usually not as brutal, but man he ripped this one to shreds.

    • March 14, 2011 2:02 pm

      Yeah, I heard about that. Not the guy you want trashing your movie these days, especially since he doesn’t seem to trash much of anything anymore (not that I’m complaining).

      • March 14, 2011 2:14 pm

        Hey, that Ebert review ticked me off a little. I saw it. I enjoyed it. And I still think I’d make a good boyfriend. Just sayin’…

      • March 14, 2011 2:21 pm

        Hahaha. Wow, apparently Roger struck a chord. Looks like I gotta read this.

  9. HermioneO permalink
    March 14, 2011 2:31 pm

    Oh. Well. Un what can I say except … WRONG. You are so wrong about this. What was that alien invasion dog last year with no stars and set in LA and ending on a cliff hanger with the guy now an alien guarding his girl? THAT was a dog. This film had most of the stuff done right and I give props to Aeron Ekhardt (sp) for doing a good job and you seem to have missed a lot of the plot elements and I don’t know what youre talking about with this thing fron 1942 unless you also watched the SCIFI channel Battle for LA that aired this weekend and was a total dogsaster but it did have a pilot from 1942 in it.

    This movie Battl: LA had good stuff going for it, including Eckhardt and Michelle and I loved the end where the marines stuck together.

    • March 14, 2011 2:42 pm

      Hahaha. I think you’re referring to Skyline, and while I haven’t seen that, I heard it was garbage. Thinking we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one ’cause I’m starting to wonder if we saw the same movie.

      As far as the 1942 thing is concerned, pretty sure I saw a couple TV spots that went on about it and it’s definitely mentioned in the Wikipedia page, but I definitely didn’t catch wind of it from that SyFy movie. I don’t know, I thought this was just torture.

      “We already had breakfast.” Yeesh.

  10. March 14, 2011 5:31 pm

    Thank you for validating my avoidance of this turkey.

  11. March 14, 2011 8:08 pm

    I really wanted to see this film but a lot of the early negative press made me wonder if I should pass on it. Your review has confirmed that I can wait for this one to hit DVD.

  12. Darren permalink
    March 15, 2011 9:17 am

    Yep. Pretty “meh.” Like the most banal and crappy combination of Independence Day and the Hurt Locker I’ve ever seen.

    • March 15, 2011 12:51 pm

      Hahaha. Well said. Could have been a cool idea, too. Amazing how badly they screwed this up.

  13. March 21, 2011 4:30 pm

    Nobody fucks with Bill Pullman.

  14. nd 4spd permalink
    June 16, 2011 1:54 am

    I loved it, only thing I regret is missing it in theatres. There is more to it all than the “macho bullshit”, you just have to be willing to see it all.
    The action sequences were great, of course, but there are also several things going on under the surface….again, you just need to be willing to see them. The movie had all of the elements, in my opinion. The only thing that seemed to be missing (and this is a stretch as it can be perceived otherwise) was the romance aspect. I found it very refreshing to not have another love story on the side burner, certainly there were sparks but nothing to take you away from what is really going on.
    Just my opinion, as s non-genre based movie buff, but a hardcore movie buff.

  15. nd 4spd permalink
    June 16, 2011 2:07 am

    …furthermore, infind it idiotic that people take movie reviews as anything more than one person’s (or group of peoples) opinion. In my vast experience, it is only useful for those looking for what they MIGHT expect WHEN they go and see the film. Some of my closest friends and i share a very similar taste for what we consider the “prime movie”, and I have steered clear of a movie based in his recommendation…regretting it greatly later. Please do not take a review as anything more than an opinion, but see it for yourself with an open mind.
    Keep the volume up, the picture clear, and the popcorn fresh!

    • June 17, 2011 10:20 am

      Hoo boy. Right there with ya’ on reviews being just one person’s opinion, but as for the movie, still the worst I’ve seen all year. But hey, different strokes for different folks. Can’t all see the same thing, but at least someone out there enjoyed it. Thanks for the comments and thanks for stopping by!

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