Alien invasion movies are an acquired taste now. Before CGI and massive special effects took over, films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s They Live were effective because they told a story that showed the emotional impact of an extraterrestrial breach in our society. Even big budget movies like War of the Worlds and Independence Day have a soul beyond that of the massive explosions caused by the powerful alien weaponry. It’s too bad that lately, with November’s sci-fi bomb Skyline and now Battle: Los Angeles in theaters, alien invasion flicks are becoming incredibly watered down and demonstrate a horrible way to blow an expensive budget.
Right off the bat Battle: Los Angeles makes an amateurish mistake by beginning with the paper thin back stories of the Marine platoon members who are followed throughout the film, battling aliens and issues at the same time. To develop characters you need to spend more than two minutes of screen time trying to make us care about them. Only Aaron Eckhart’s ridiculously intense Sergeant Nantz is given a large chunk of back story regarding a supposed problem he was involved in during his time in Iraq. On top of the fact that these marines are hard to individually tell apart is how clichéd their characters are.
The marine who is getting engaged, the scared rookie, the inexperienced commander, the foul-mouthed hick, the female bad-ass, the emotionally troubled sharpshooter, and even Eckhart’s “one last war before I retire” squad leader; there is nothing is original about anyone in this movie. The civilians that join the Marines mid-way through the storyline are as cookie-cutter as they get as well, either used as a way to tug at the heartstrings of the hardened soldiers or to courageously get shot and die slowly in front of their child. You’ve seen it all before, and done better.
Now most won’t give a damn about the human aspect of an alien invasion movie, they’ll instead focus purely on the space invaders and what serious hardware they are packing to take over Earth. This is the part of the movie that you’ve never seen before because no one in Hollywood would attempt such a half-assed idea. Once you get a clear look at the aliens you become aware that they look just like stickman but with oval heads and one arm acting as a gun. It’s laughably uncreative and boring.
Yes the movie is two hours of action but not one second of it is relatively fun. You are better off playing video games where the enemy aliens are creatures to fear and enjoyable to shoot because of their hideous nature. Battle: LA’s robotic stickman are shot and killed without so much of a growl. Their ships look like pieces of garbage duct taped together. This is what ultimately makes a movie of this nature fail, unappealing aliens that destroy the audience’s interest.
There are so many lazy and unfocused ideas throughout the movie. Like, when a reporter explains that the reason for the aliens attack is for Earth’s water resources. Building the “unknown” factor for the enemy can be achieved when it doesn’t feel similar to a hacked on afterthought. Then there’s the scene where Nantz tries to discover the alien’s weak point, which is deemed useless when later in the film shooting them anywhere takes them down like a sack of potatoes.
The filming style is erratic and messy and tries so hard for a documentary feel even when the action onscreen doesn’t deserve it. The humor that pops up every once in a while throughout the movie is so juvenile that a five year old could have written it. One strong reason why most audiences will be turned off by Battle: LA is how openly pro-war it is. It’s impossible to keep track of the military banter and speeches given by the soldiers who mutter lines we’ve all cringed at hearing before. It’s as if the dialogue was written by a Marine recruiter.
“Let’s show them what soldiers they are dealing with!”
“We are not dying here!”
Battle: Los Angeles misses every mark it aims for. Aside from uninspired but well done special effects and an engaging action sequence taking place on a destroyed freeway, nothing in this movie is new or worth recommending. Eckhart’s one dimensional lead hero, the pathetic excuse for alien inventiveness, wretched dialogue, and painful attempts at trying to flesh out non-existent back stories are good enough reasons to avoid seeing it. Rent Independence Day and marvel at how making an alien invasion serious but ultimately fun, can be such a success at pleasing an audience. Here’s hoping we see more like it in the future instead of forgettable attempts to make money.
Battle: Los Angeles was released on March 11th, 2011