Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Christopher Bertolini

The marketing guys of Battle: Los Angeles were sure not to reveal much about this action flick before it hit theaters, choosing to mask the plot in action scenes for the trailers of the film, which failed to even include the title of the film most the time, deciding instead to leave the audience wanting more with just a date: 3.11.11. The ad campaign seems to have paid off as the film took home the box office crown for its opening weekend, but we all know weekend box office numbers and total gross do not automatically make the film a good one. Oftentimes the mysterious nature schtick can indicate a good movie too, but again, there are always exceptions. It may seem as though I am alluding to the fact that the film was not one of those good ones, but I think that would be taking it too far. While I would certainly stop short of calling Battle: Los Angeles a good film, I would also refrain from calling it a bad one. It is popcorn fun and with no preconceived notions as to what was going to unfold, I can’t say I was disappointed.

The film starts by showing us the fact that Los Angeles is in fact being invaded by an unknown force, which was the extent of which the trailer revealed the plot. Director Jonathan Liebesman then transports us back to a day earlier as he begins to introduce the characters we are going to be spending the rest of the film with. Honestly, this move was unnecessary in my eyes. Trying to pump in back story lines for characters is textbook and anyone will tell you establishing characters and giving them depth is important to getting the audience to care about what they are doing, but in this instance I would have much rather have been thrusted into battle with these soldiers that I don’t know and get to know them along the way. Of course, we also get introduced to SSgt. nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who is the “new guy” to the platoon with a bad reputation, back for one last battle before leaving the Marines for retirement. Eckhart is a fine actor and his performance is fine, but of course his character is kind of bland and cliche, like a lot of other things about the film.

So the Marines are out in the field now, with their mission to rescue some civilians, including children, from the grips of the invading extra-terrestrial force. This is where the action and the good filmmaking start to take hold. Liebesman maintains a tense, action packed feel with his camera the whole way through, but where the film is at its best is in the field doing battle with great moments of tension. What becomes most surprising, or better disappointing, is that the film fails to ever seem to take any chances. It is fueled by the stakes (are there any higher than the survival of humanity?). However, the events seem shortened, even with a near two hour runtime, and things get done almost too simply and without real explanation. The audience is just supposed to buy the fact that in dire sitautions, quick luck seems to be priceless.

I do not mean to be so harsh on the film, though it had the potential, in my eyes, to be much better. There is nothing wrong with a solid action film released in March. It gets people in the seats and does entertain them. In fact, I was even surprised by how much I liked music artist Ne-Yo in his role as Cpl. Harris. But at the end of the day, Battle: Los Angeles will be forgotten by years end for not taking chances, using too many cliches, and not advancing the genre in any way. Instead, those that will remember it will be the action junkies and the committee to get Michelle Rodriguez every tough woman role in Hollywood.

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