Sunday, 13 March 2011

107: Review - Battle: Los Angeles

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Battle: Los Angeles
13 March 2011. Location: Cinema

Plot: During the first wave of an alien invasion, a squad of marines has to make it from the drop-zone to the Forward Operations Base, rescuing civilians as they go.

Sounds like a game, doesn't it? It pretty much plays out like one, too. From the off-the-shelf characters (troubled about-to-quit marine, rookie eager-to-please marine, bitter my-brother-just-died-on-duty marine, determined I'm-a-chick but-I-kick-more-ass than-the-rest-of-you marine... you get the picture) to the premise of go from point A to point B while keeping the survivors intact, it's essentially like someone wrote a decent squad-based shooter, then adapted it into a movie. If you watch it with this in mind, it's actually fairly good.

I say that because I wasn't expecting a lot from Battle: Los Angeles, and the first half hour did little to dissuade me from that feeling. The trailer and marketing seem to be shoving this into a slot like a kind of Earth-bound Starship Troopers, but I took it more along the lines of Gamer and Crank. The hand-held shakycam is overused, and it's ridiculously noisy. At the moments in the film where there are plot-points to hammer home, you'll barely notice because of the constant motion and noise. Not that it actually matters that much. Sitting towards the back of the cinema is recommended if you want to be able to focus on the action at all.

So, once you adapt to the fact that this is told from the marines' point of view, and that it's going to be fucking loud, it's good fun. It's thankfully lacking in the America-Saves-The-World vibe of Independence Day, but there is a fair amount of earnest, motivational speech-time. And I don't want to sound like I'm generalising, but despite the tick-boxes that each character falls into, the marines are basically the same type of character: marines. I know they're individuals, of course, but they're all the kind of individual who joined the marines and passed the training, y'know? What I'm saying is, when each one gets his 2-minute introductory sequence at the start of the movie, you needn't bother reading the name-card at the bottom of the screen. Once the bullets start flying, their names aren't important. If anything, the film is its own worst enemy in terms of generalisation.

And so to the rest: Visual effects, great. Aliens used sparingly and from varying distances, the same with their ships. Exposition, satisfactory. All that's revealed is what's needed, even if most of it is drowned out in shouting and gunfire. Scoring, up to scratch. Nothing outstanding, with 'dark ominous tones' for the most part, but it's what's expected and works well enough. The only irony in it all is that I noticed the 'stillness' during the BBFC-card: 'ooh, digital projection. Nice, I like a good steady picture'. This, obviously, was the last steady picture I saw for two hours.

Side note: You've got to almost feel sorry for Michelle Rodreguez. She's played this role so many times that if she ever gets a knock on the head, she'll be slotting people left, right and centre. But hey, at least she's still getting plenty of work, and she is fun to watch.

Sequels? It'd be nice to see how the same time-frame played out in different locations around the world. A bit like when the game Half-Life was expanded with Opposing Force and Blue Shift. It's possible that's what the title of the film is hinting at, or it may just be a generic title for a generic movie...

All in all: Low expectations are the key to enjoyment. There's nothing new here, but that charge can be levelled at most new movies these days.

It's way better than Skyline, and nowhere near as good as Cloverfield.


See if you liked: Aliens, Skyline, Cloverfield, District 9, Starship Troopers.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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