Monday, 13 June 2011
Battle: Los Angeles
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena
By Alan Bacchus
There’s a serious disconnect between the often stunning, superlative technical achievements and the clichéd simpleton storytelling on display in Battle: Los Angeles. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s choreography of action using a Paul Greengrass/Kathryn Bigelow style of earthy realism is superlative, yet this robust aesthetic is plastered onto one of the more atrocious cliché-ridden disaster stinkers since 2012.
Perhaps the most interest thing on this new Battle: Los Angeles Blu-ray is the discussion about the conceptual pitch Liebesman made to Neil Moritz, the producer, in order to get the gig. His incredibly detailed presentation, which combined stock footage mixed with storyboards, animatics and newly shot video by Liebesman, was so impressive he beat out other more experienced directors. We can certainly feel the energy of this young director in the film, but the term style over substance has never been more appropriate than in this picture.
In broad strokes, the idea of combining a traditional war film with an alien invasion film is interesting. Essentially, Battle: LA is a War of the Worlds/Independence Day remake from the point of view of the military, but the strong whiff of conservative American flag-waving jingoism is too tough to stomach. We're forced to digest a syrupy character arc about a field officer, SS Nantz (Eckhart), on his last day before retirement, who completes the unheralded and unexplained sudden invasion of extra-terrestrials riding shotgun on Transformer-style robots to gain redemption from his blackened military past.
The rampant string of clichés that runs from beginning to end include our hero's ‘one day till retirement’ scenario, the set-up of Nantz’s smeared past, and his failed previous mission, which led to a number of killed soldiers and marks the atonement he will seek by the end of the film. Of course, Eckhart is given a rousing speech in the third act, which rallies the troops who were at one point in conflict over his leadership but are now ready to fight together for their country. There’s also the exchange of the death letter from one fallen soldier to another. You know the scene – one soldier is dying but manages to ask his comrade to deliver his last love letter to his wife – yes, that scene is in this movie.
Specific plot points cause equally loud groans. The idea of the alien command centre having one central weak spot that would disable all the robot drone fighter ships around them is a deus ex machina stolen shamelessly from the ‘weak spot’ in the Death Star.
And hell, even the presence of Michelle Rodriguez is cliché in this one.
The green-yellow visual cues of the nighttime scenes look great, though they’re stolen directly from Slawowir Idziak’s work in Blackhawk Down. Brian Tyler, who seems to specialize in scoring brainless masculine douche-movies (The Expendables, Fast Five, Rambo, Bangkok Dangerous), mimics the jingoistic musical styles of Trevor Rabin or other Bruckheimer/Bay action movies.
If you can stomach the sentimentality and jingoism, or perhaps if you voted for George W. Bush or watch Fox News, this movie might be for you.
Battle Los Angeles is available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.