Battle: Los Angeles – Invading Private Ryan

BLA_IT_1SHT_SLDRLK_3Billed as a cross between Saving Private Ryan and Independence Day, this latest alien invasion epic actually offered up one of the most impressive trailers of the last few years.

A few startling shots of an obliterated Los Angeles, a screaming Marine dragged away by an unseen menace, hordes of meteoric vessels striking Earth with such force that they blast rings through the sky, and of course large clusters of confused sheep-like people running around amidst the raging anarchy; all complimented by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s beautiful, yet haunting and eerily mechanical piece ‘The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black’.

It is, without doubt, an awesome movie teaser, with plenty to get excited about, and a real sense that maybe this could offer something a little different, whilst maintaining the essence of a summer sci-fi blockbuster.

Such a shame that Battle: Los Angeles is actually as bland as a beige Volvo.

That’s not to say it’s a terrible movie; there’s some remarkable visuals, and even a couple of rousing performances, but clichéd doesn’t even begin to describe this film and its by-the-numbers storyline, direction and dialogue.

As Battle: Los Angeles begins, no time is wasted in pointing out that the Earth is currently being pelted by strange objects from space, thought to be meteorites. All the well known cities are casually referenced in a half-hearted attempt to steer clear of ‘Roland Emmerich Syndrome’, which is a devastating virus that renders large scale disaster movies devoid of multicultural awareness (when the world is under attack, only the USA is affected, and only the USA can save us – sigh).

Unfortunately, this alone is actually a direct symptom of ‘Roland Emmerich Syndrome’, and thus is a fairly bad sign for a film playing as a realistic, gritty portrayal of an alien invasion.

Sort-of-disgraced-but-not-really-at-all U.S. Marine veteran Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, played by ever-reliable Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking, The Dark Knight), is about to retire due to a recent experience that went a little awry. However, as an advanced and generally unpleasant alien army begins to dismantle cities, and people, with blinding efficiency and precision, he is called back into duty to act as second-in-command to Lieutenant William Martinez, who is basically 12-years-old.

A mission to rescue civilians hiding out in a police station during the invasion falls inevitably short of the term ‘smooth’, and general chaos ensues involving lots of explosions and a few dramatic chats between reluctant comrades before the obligatory hero and sacrifice moments.

It’s certainly irritating watching a film that has already got every scene, shot and plot development mapped out clearly for the viewer before any action has even taken place. The prospect of an eye-popping sci-fi spectacular viewed from the perspective of a handful of Marines, still battling to save people whilst the world falls apart around them, is initially an intriguing one, although wrought with obvious dangers.

But in Battle: Los Angeles there are simply no surprises; every major development is expected and the all-American ‘we salute you’ moments are quite hammy, not to mention potentially alienating for international viewers. It plays like U.S. military propaganda, and this never sits comfortably.

Plaudits go to Aaron Eckhart; he can take any rubbish dialogue and give it authenticity and poise (watch The Core for a prime example), and he is ably supported by Michelle Rodriguez as Technical Sergeant Elena Santos, although she is essentially playing the same part she always does, just in a different outfit.

The visuals are the main draw, and although his direction lacks imagination, Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls, Killing Room) does a good job of combining the blinding sci-fi effects with the gritty, taut aesthetics used to capture the human efforts on the ground. The obvious objective of creating an ambience similar to Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawn Down, mixed with those breathtaking disaster shots that viewers love to see in big screen action adventures, has worked well on the visual level, but left Battle: Los Angeles floating around without any definitive vibe.

It’s not quite a war film, and it’s not quite a gung-ho blockbuster; but it is ultimately disappointing, and the dialogue sounds like it has been harvested from a cross-section of all other cliché-ridden films ever.

In Battle: Los Angeles the real fight will take place inside your brain, as you try to decide whether you thought it was really darn pretty, or just a waste of your time.

Can’t wait for Battle: Stoke

DVDRental Rating: 5/10

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