Battle Los Angeles

Mindless but Satisfactory Popcorn Fun, 13 March 2011

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the first time that Director Jonathan Leibesman has been given a big budget – and it shows. A deeply conservative movie, “Battle” is overflowing with CGI special effects, and bankrupt of original story. Hero Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, played by Aaron Eckhart, is the personification of the John Wayne archetype, chiselled, patriotic, questioned, but made of the right stuff. He leads a small band of brothers against an alien enemy, and naturally triumphs.

An enormous amount of US military hardware is on show here. The co-operation of the Pentagon depends upon a suitably patriotic script, and they will have had no complaints on that score. Frequently you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a Marine Corps training film. The stars and stripes flutter, sacrifice in Iraq is quoted, blacks, Hispanics and women fight heroically side by side, and phalanxes of helicopters swoop and soar whilst jets zoom overhead. Retreat? Hell no!

You want cliché? You get it. Nantz is a twenty year old veteran who has just handed in his resignation papers when the call to rescue his country comes. The brother of a man who has died under his command in a failed previous mission now comes under his command. The woman may not be able to kick ass as well as the boys – bur she is clever. A civilian who is being rescued rallies to fight the invaders- and sacrifices his life. His young son is comforted by a female vet who is on hand to be both motherly, and identify a wounded alien’s vital weak spot. And the dog survives! The running time of almost two hours is a little long, and the noise relentless. If there are lulls in battles, Leibesman forgets this. Which is not to say that the film is not without any merit. The cravenly contrived script works because the devices are so well worn, and the script is barely noticeable as most of it is shouted. If in doubt, they are saying “cover me”, “watch my back” or “hostiles 6 0’clock”. Visually, it is hugely impressive and plays like a gigantic computer game, and with no bad language kids will love it.

But despite heroism and spectacle the story fails because of a fundamental flaw. The classic conflict stories are about good versus evil, and the aliens have no voice. It is speculated that they have come to colonise and take earth’s natural resources, but this is presented as an aside. So there is no personal struggle. The destruction of the alien command and control module is the symbolic victory, but a disintegrating hovering heap of junk is no substitute for a fallen defeated figure.

The overwhelming sense is of similarities with British WW2 propaganda films to rally morale at home . Afghanistan, Iraq, Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and Libya might be tricky, but our Marines can still whip alien ass!

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