USA, 2011: Battle: Los Angeles
Battle: Los Angeles
Genre: Action, War, Science Fiction
A handful of marines face off against a massive alien invasion of Los Angeles.
At its heart and soul, Battle: LA is a war movie, through and through. Despite the aliens and the thriller edge, itís still a film about a handful of heroic soldiers standing up against unthinkable odds and conquering their own demons along the way. For what it is, director Jonathan Liebesman does a solid job of delivering on all the right notes when required. Itís genuinely gut wrenching, heart stopping, and tear jerking in the right places, but doesnít seem to get much more out of its screen time than any other well made war film. Aaron Eckhart and the supporting cast do a fine job with what they were given, but are ultimately held down by a predictable plot and dull dialogue. I will say that I donít think Iíll ever get tired of seeing Michelle Rodriguez as an assault rifle-toting bad ass, but itís not quite enough to save the whole movie. The script is packed to the gills with military jargon and in-jokes, adding a great deal to the immersion of the setting. All in all, though, most of the film comes off as some kind of extended sci-fi commercial for the US Marine Corps.
Liebsman isnít exactly known for directing epic movies, but he manages to pull it off here. Aside from trying to cram far too much into the first ten minutes of the story, most everything else comes off as fairly safe choices. The sound design is staggering, complimented well by a score that is appropriately heroic and uplifting. The CGI and practical effects blend almost seamlessly, giving District 9 a run for some of the best looking aliens and alien technology to date. Unfortunately, all of this hard work is almost flushed down the toilet by the absolutely horrible camera work. Everything, and I mean everything, was filmed with a handheld camera, making it just about impossible to keep your eyes on the same shot for more than a few seconds. In addition to making the actors, sets, and special effects difficult to read, itís definitely more than enough to give people motion sickness. They manage to capture some good shots of Los Angeles despite this handicap, but trying to follow the scenes between the actors is nauseating. I imagine that this was meant to further reinforce the feeling of being on the ground with the soldiers, but really it adds nothing to the experience except the desire to walk out and grab an aspirin.
As mentioned before, the action filmed on set merges beautifully with the action created digitally. The shoot outs are intense, and the explosions all feel real. If it wasnít for the terrible cinematography, I would say that this is some of the best sci-fi combat Iíve seen in a long time. If you think you can stomach the shakiness and the mediocre story, Battle: LA is definitely a fun way to start the spring.
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