Director Jonathan Liebesman, the man who brought us “Darkness Falls” and a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” prequel, is about to make contact with his latest film, “Battle: Los Angeles”. He drops his audience right into the middle of an epic alien invasion bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before on screen. And then, right when it looks like it’s about to get really dire, he takes the action back 24 hours, like a bad television drama might, so that we can contextualize exactly what this devastation has consumed, without realizing whatsoever that no one really cares what happened earlier. All we want to see is what happens next.
By the time you get to what is next, you won’t care what it is. First you have to meet the platoon that will try to save the world. You’ve got an army sergeant with a sketchy service record who has just put in for retirement. He will be leading a band of assorted military types who have never been in combat before. There is one grunt who is getting married, one whose wife is pregnant, one who is a virgin still (and therefore cannot die before losing his virginity) and there is even one soldier whose brother died under the command of his new sergeant. There is oh so much at risk for these boys and, thanks to the blatantly obvious setup, we already know what horror awaits them. Once in combat, hardly any of this back-story even gets brought up though, making it so worth going there to begin with, and Liebesman can focus on what he should have to begin with, blowing stuff up. He blows so much stuff up though that one wonders how he can sustain everything for another 90 minutes. Enter yet another tried and true tension builder; the troop must get themselves and a handful of civilians out of their war zone by a certain time or they will be bombed by an impending American air strike. At least the entire cast getting blown up would have been original.
“Battle: Los Angeles” is lazy filmmaking. It is one of those pictures that plays out like a bad pitch, so transparent that you can see the Hollywood suits behind the screen counting the money they will make off all who are unfortunate enough to see this disastrous disaster pic. The script is riddled with clichés and none of the actors, not even the usually stellar Aaron Eckhart, can find any meaning in the dialogue they have to force out (Michelle Rodriguez does a solid job but she’s got to be used to spitting out contrived nonsense by this point in her career). Even the film’s visual style, the only reason I went to see it, is derivative of “District 9” – only with all the excitement and electricity sucked out of it. Clearly somebody somewhere wanted to capitalize on that film’s success by stripping it of all intelligent and provocative thought, allowing for more middling audiences to just enjoy kicking some alien ass. It all amounts to nothing more than a losing battle.
Review by Joseph Bélanger