Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Battle: Los Angeles

Film #370

THE PLOT

A squadron of U.S. Marines becomes the last line of defense against a global extra-terrestrial invasion.

Year 2, Film #5

THE REVIEW: At one point during Battle: Los Angeles I stopped and thought, “Maybe the reason I’m not liking this film is because I’m getting fatigued by all these apocalypses I’ve seen lately.” Very shortly after that I realized that, “Nope, this is just an absolutely terrible film.” The problems are too numerous to count and unlike most other big-budget blockbusters, doesn’t even have visuals that can distract you from gaping plot and character issues. This is an abomination that should be looked at as a big “What Not To Do”.

While I could rattle off a whole host of problems with Battle: Los Angeles I’m only going to focus on two because: (a) I don’t want to give this film any more attention that I need to; and (b) two things is enough to rant about for one review. The first aspect I’ll take issue with is a fundamental one: story. Most of what is wrong with this film lies in its story or something related to it. The premise is this: a bunch of alien lifeforms are invading and “colonizing” – according to the CNN reporter – Earth. The only reason that is given as to why is because they want our water, which in case you didn’t know covers 70% of our surface (that fact comes courtesy of a CNN expert)1. But while there’s many things to complain and nitpick about, this isn’t uncommon with a lot of films nowadays. I’m in no way excusing Battle: Los Angeles, just merely setting up the terrible punchline. What’s so bad about this film is these plot problems are indicative of a larger problem: identity.

The film tries to present itself as a military-action film. I differentiate this from a traditional action film in that it tries to add another element of realism. Marines in particular are a special branch of the U.S. Military that command an added level of respect in the minds of us civilians and seeing them on screen is like a do-no-wrong scenario where we’ll instantly become engrossed with what is shown. Not here.Battle: Los Angeles is just an action film that slapped on some uniforms and attempts to recreate their dialogue, but fails miserably. One word commands and responses litter the script in a way that doesn’t sound natural and the behavior also reeks of a Hollywood interpretation of what they think Marines do, not how they actually act2. Additionally, this poor attempt at realism riddled with hole also has a lack of focus. Besides Staff Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) all the other characters are like one big conglomerate. There was very little distinction between everyone and nowhere near enough where you could identify and connect with them. Consequently, when half the people are either killed or injured, it doesn’t have an emotional effect because you don’t care for these people. 

Visually, Battle: Los Angeles isn’t much better. Yes, there are quite a few explosions and visual effects showcased but just like the story, it utterly fails in so many ways. First and foremost: it’s a struggle to watch. The aliens, which I believe are some sort of organic/machine hybrid, look like a stock design with no modifications to it. They’re bland, generic, and what I’ll define as “clip art of visual effects”. It’s as if there was no effort whatsoever spent in preproduction as to what the aliens would look like. They seem an afterthought that someone pointed out right before release and said, “How could we forget there are aliens in this film. Guess we have to whip up something quick now.” And the same can be said for the alien vessels: the command center and drone craft. The command center in particular looks like someone went around their house picking through trash finding anything that could remotely fit together to form a spaceship. But don’t worry too much about it because the misused shaky-cam and quick editing will cover that all up and make everything you see one big incoherent mess. By misused shaky-cam I don’t mean inappropriate. A handheld-camera in this movie could have provided a very documentary-esque, spur-of-the-moment feel like it does in Green Zone, the Bourne films, or quite a few other films recently, but for this specific case, it’s like they gave some random person off the street a camcorder and said, “Film this.” Combine this with cuts that go by so quickly, and you can forget any sense of order or comprehension as to what’s happening where and had me, several times, asking myself, “Did they just magically teleport to this place or did we actually see them walk there because I could have sworn that wasn’t there two seconds ago.”

The more of the film I saw, the worse it got. I couldn’t believe how poorly done, clichéd, and incomprehensible everything was. At some point towards the end I started to laugh a bit. Battle: Los Angeles got to that point where all hope is lost and there’s nothing the film can do to win you back. Because of this, I thought I might be generous and award two stars for being so bad that it became good. Then I came across Roger Ebert’s review for the film and I let out a genuine laugh. It’s a fantastic piece of writing and provided infinitely more entertainment than watching the film did. It also confirmed my thoughts about the film and showed that at least one other person hated Battle: Los Angeles as much as I did. The whole thing is well worth a read but I’ll leave you with perhaps the best part: his recommendation.

Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you’ve been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart.

THE RATING: 1 out of 5 

  1. That same expert, I believe it was a Professor of some kind, also tried to support this hypothesis by saying that Earth is unique because, “No other locations in our known universe have liquid H2O anywhere near their surface.” Apparently this person isn’t familiar with the Goldilock’s Zone. Just to give you a sense of how wrong that statement is, in the Milky Way galaxy alone (and remember, there are billions of galaxies in addition to our own Milky Way), there is an estimated 500 million to over 150 billion (yes, with a “B”) habitable planets that can support liquid water on the surface. And if you scroll down to the criticism section on that page, you’ll notice that people don’t think this theory is encompassing enough; that more habitable planets can exist. Which means that rough estimate can only increase. “No other location in our known universe” is complete bullshit. 

  2. My only real knowledge on the topic comes from other films, but if the documentary Restrepo is any indication (and being filmed in Afghanistan during combat with actual soldiers, I’d say it is), there is no way a Marine would be as relaxed and blasé during a combat situation as the characters in this film are.