Battle: Los Angeles
Just another typical rush hour in L.A.


Theatrical Release Date: 03/11/2011
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Peña, Michelle Rodriguez
Rated: PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes


Trailer:

Someone fell asleep with a lit cigarette, I guess.

If someone were to dissect the reels of film that make up “Battle: Los Angeles”, the breakdown would go something like this: 50% Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, 20% Independence Day, 10% Black Hawk Down, 10% Marine recruitment video, 5% Aaron Eckhart making his Marines forget who John Wayne is and 5% Michelle Rodriguez has the market cornered on roles that seem made up to include Michelle Rodriguez. (If you prefer a graphical description, try this pie chart).

A more detailed analysis finds that screenwriter Christopher Bertolini and director Jonathan Liebesman apparently don’t subscribe to the ‘less is more’ philosophy, as the film comes in with a running time of just under two hours (with credits, 4 minutes under to be exact). It’s not so much that it isn’t possible to make a good sci-fi action film that runs that long, it’s that there’s so much waste that could have been cut out in the editing room in order to trim up this bloated beast.

For example, the film rightly starts with the alien invasion, as E.T. and his buddies are laying waste to the coastlines of most industrialized countries … until of course we flash back 24 hours before that point in order to spend time poorly attempting to build characters up so the audience might care when they’re shot, crushed, exploded, burned, etc., etc. So there’s an easy 20 minutes saved right there.

From that point, the Call of Duty DNA kicks in and we get a nice, long stretch of Aaron Eckhart and his squad navigating the war torn streets of L.A. Much of the film could be called a defacto Marine recruitment video, which is up to each viewer to determine their feelings on that issue, but it also means that there’s plenty of action and it’s within this section that “Battle: Los Angeles” is at its best, playing to its demographic in just the right manner.

More needless attempts at character development are thrown in here and there; most notably in risking a squad of Marines for a few civilians (Bridget Moynahan as the half-hearted love interest in case a woman accidentally buys a ticket to this, Michael Peña and his son to add the parental protection angle, and some cute white kids who apparently don’t belong to anyone but would look great on a milk carton so they’re bound to engender a connection with those who don’t root for the death of animals and children in sci-fi films); but still, the middle of the story is what works best here.

Now, had the film simply seen our Marines rescue some civilians and kick some alien butt along the way, I’d have left the theater quite satisfied. But Liebesman and Bertolini unfortunately tried to grow a brain and a chunk of the last thirty minutes go something like this: Marines talking about plot developments that are poorly and predictable played out, punctuated by Eckhart making a teary-eyed speech that concludes with “But none of that matters now”. Then why the hell did we have to hear any of it???

The film then goes on to have one last battle scene, which works as well as the others, so at least there’s that and if you’re a fan of sequels, don’t be too surprised if “Battle: Planet Earth” / “Battle: East L.A.” / “Battle: Some Other Country So We Can Write Off a Vacation” should happen if enough people flock to see this. The story is fully self-contained but there’s room for more should producers see dollar signs in their eyes. I also don’t appreciate the marketing campaign regarding past UFO sightings and some vague connection to their invasion … seeing as this isn’t talked about AT ALL in the film, though after seeing how Liebesman and company handle story development, I’m happy to let this indiscretion go rather than spend another 15 or 20 minutes slowing things down.

The bottom line is this, there’s a decent action film inside “Battle: Los Angeles” but attempts to humanize the conflict fail miserably and I can only give the film a 2.5 out of 5. I enjoyed watching actors LARP in the vein of Call of Duty but when there isn’t a point at which I care whether the alien horde overruns us or not, I obviously haven’t connected with the characters so I’d rather they hadn’t tried (and failed) developing them in the first place.

2.5 out of 5