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Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Director: Jonathan Liebesman

review by Christopher Geary

A rather simplistic War Of The Worlds derivative, this invasion thriller is told from the POV of US marine grunts, led by staff sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). Heroic troops sent into an L.A. war zone find they are fighting cyborg drones, while any human forces are practically overwhelmed when rapid aerial support machines lead the aliens' attack to establish a beachhead. Nantz is joined by USAF tech sarge Santos (Michelle Rodriguez). Bridget Moynahan provides token glamour. Along with the rest of this blockbuster's cast of stereotypes, Eckhart's Nantz is guilty of too much emoting and not enough proper acting. There are no solid characters. The aliens lack any kind of imaginative weirdness to distinguish them from antagonistic props ruining coastline scenery and wrecking locations into urban earthquake panoramas of unsportingly telegenic extreme rioting.

As in Paul Greengrass' politically driven Green Zone, action scenes are filmed with a gritty handheld vérité style, clearly intended to crank up the immersive intensity and quick pace with escalating force. However, overuse of jittery camerawork grants only a thoroughly bogus documentary affect to Battle: Los Angeles, and so the movie plays just like an extended advert for a video game spin-off. Skyline is much better sci-fi horror. District 9 remains a lot more fun. Jonathan Liebesman (maker of a merely-average supernatural horror Darkness Falls, and that pointless 2006 sequel to a Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), directs with a measured assurance, but this is just a hectic yet plot-free shoot-'em-up actioner with no discernable sci-fi content except for the implacable, seemingly unstoppable, 'alien' forces.

What may well, eventually, crush any serious genre fans' charitable enthusiasm for this grotesquely overblown $70 million Hollywood product is the repulsive yet sincere gung-ho presentation of US marine corps heroism. Its cross-genre scenario, which invites comparisons with Ridley Scott's masterly Black Hawk Down (2001), and Roland Emmerich's deeply flawed and cheesy Independence Day (1996), is bad enough to shame a disposable B-movie. Yes, admittedly, the combat sequences keep all viewers awake, but a complete lack of any new SF ideas, and overly sympathetic treatment of the military (perhaps necessary to ensure cooperation of the same American forces being depicted here?), ensures this is just another cinematic equivalent of a big dumb object.

Battle: Los Angeles on DVD




Battle: Los Angeles poster



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