Battle: Los Angeles – Review

Battle: Los Angeles has a pretty straightforward title.  It’s about the opening battle against alien invaders in Los Angeles.  That’s really about it.  No global scope here–just a squad of Marines in Los Angeles and how they fare in the fight.

So what price do they pay in this battle?  The first casualty is cinematography.  The movie makes a concerted effort to feel gritty and real, like you’re there with them, seeing what they see.  Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of shaky camera, fog, reflections, and no time to focus on anything.  While I understand the intent, and it’s fine in SOME situations, it’s frustrating to me when I can tell that something cool is happening on screen, yet it’s hidden by smoke, or a poor camera angle, or cutting away too quickly.  Despite wanting us to be right there in the action, it’s still a movie, and should give us time to actually SEE what’s going on.

That’s my main gripe.  If you can get past that, the action is actually solid.  It’s disorienting as intended, but never so much that you can’t follow along.  The aliens are kept appropriately mysterious.  Their technology is very interesting.  As with everything else, you don’t get a good look at it.  What you can see is ugly, yet powerful and functional.  After all, who needs weapons and war machines to be pretty?  Star Wars this isn’t.

The actors are a largely faceless cast.  Instead of names, they are just “the one with glasses” or “the one who’s a doctor.”  The good aspect of this is that with few big names, you don’t know who will live or die, so the deaths are usually a surprise.  The two known names in the movie are Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez.  Aaron Eckhart is one of my favorite actors today.  He is entirely believable as an older Marine who’s been thrust into this situation with a bunch of kids.  He’s like a recruiting ad for what Marines should be.  Unfortunately, his dialogue veers into jingoism at times, and the movie starts to sound like a recruiting ad.  Eckhart is good enough to overcome these awkward moments before the movie gets back on track.  Michelle Rodriguez has less range and is almost playing her Avatar character here.  In fact, she usually plays tough girls with a wry sense of humor.  I still like her as an actress, but I won’t pretend she’s as good as Eckhart.

I’m giving this a 7, which is a good score.  It was entertaining and tense to watch.  I just think it should have been better.  I want to see an alien invasion movie shot clearly, with a sense of scale.  I want the glamor shots of the aliens landing their ships.  Maybe I can’t hold that against this movie, since it didn’t set out to do that.  As for what they WERE trying to do, I think they succeeded.



Battle: Los Angeles, starring Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, opens in theaters, March 11, 2011

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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