'Battle: Los Angeles' fails to win the movie war

March 15, 2011|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Aaron Eckhart stars in "Battle: Los Angeles."
Columbia Pictures

  If you go into "Battle: Los Angeles" expecting science fiction, you'll be in for a disappointment.

Yes, the film's villains are aliens who come to Earth in a spaceship and have an arsenal of robotic weapons, but the movie isn't about them. The movie is about a group of Marines who fight an unprecedented enemy. The aliens are basically faceless villains. Come to think of it, I don't think the aliens even have faces. They are literally faceless villains.  

The film begins a few hours before the invasion. This means we have to endure several irritating minutes of the Marines at relative peace before their lives are changed forever.  One is getting married, one has a kid on the way, etc.  

Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) recently botched a mission in the Middle East and is ready to resign in disgrace. Don't bother memorizing the other characters, they wear helmets for the whole movie and don't have distinct personalities

There's a brief mention on the news of some unexplained meteors. The situation quickly snowballs out of control, and we roll our eyes at roughly the same speed. The aliens land, and Los Angeles finds out the hard way that they aren't friendly. Our Marines are deployed to escort straggling civilians to a military safe zone before the Air Force bombs the city. The aliens can blow up whatever they want, so I don't like the chances for the Marines, the Air Force or the "safe zone".  

The aliens are attacking Los Angeles because they want the Earth's water. Shouldn't they be invading the ocean? They should come to Earth in spaceships with big straws that they can dunk into a water supply. They can just hover a few feet above the Pacific and suck up what they need.  It has to be easier than a drawn-out war with the entire human race. And don't tell me it's an unrealistic idea, this race has mastered intergalactic travel, they can build spaceships with built-in straws. By the way, if the aliens can't survive without Earth's water, how have they survived long enough to attack us?  

The Marines don't have time to care about the aliens' lousy logic, they have humans to protect. It's awfully late in the game, as there is little to no life in the streets. Many have already escaped, but bodies still litter the ground (even in neighborhoods that are curiously unincinerated). While a few civilians are holed up in a police station, the human lives the Marines have the most trouble protecting are their own.  

It should come as no surprise that the film's favorite method of conflict resolution is shooting. Occasionally something blows up, just so the film can mix it up a little. But I never believed that there were ever any shootings or explosions, nor did I believe that there were any aliens or spaceships.

The film's special effects are terrible. The use of green screens is fairly obvious. Shaky camerawork is used to disguise the poor rendering of the aliens. I can picture the actors being told to react to things that would be added in later. They thought they were reacting to something impressive.  

For months I loved the cryptic trailers for "Battle: Los Angeles." They did a good job of keeping me in suspense; I thought the movie would do the same. I should have been curling into a ball and sticking my fingers in my ears. All any film has to do is make me think something scary is going to jump out at me and then prolong it when I expect it most.  But I was annoyed by all of the film's attempts to keep me in suspense.  

"Battle: Los Angeles" didn't have anything legitimately scary to jump out at me and prolonging any potential scares just ate up more of my time watching this dud of a movie.

Two stars out of five.  

"Battle: Los Angeles" is rated PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction and for language.  Its running time is 127 minutes.  

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