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BATTLE: LOS ANGELES

In August 2011, major coastal cities of Earth are attacked by unknown forces which splash down offshore and unleash a ferocious bombardment. It is soon evident they are aliens and Los Angeles becomes a vital battlefield. It’s up to a Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), 2nd Lt William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) and his new platoon to take on an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered before.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For a film that is meant to emulate a sci-fi video game in supersized mode, Battle Los Angeles takes an unexpectedly long time (about 20 minutes) to start kickin’ ass in the action department. These opening scenes are meant to establish the key characters, US Marines with a typical array of personalities and demons. It’s hardly necessary; it’s not a film relying on character development. Hell, it’s hardly a film about anything other than an extended shoot-out.

Entirely derivative, there’s nothing to fear about understanding the film, even though most of the dialogue is an incoherent shouting match. The lines we can make out, sadly, are those we’ve heard many times before, like ‘Move! Move! Move!’ as the Marines hustle each other or the odd civilian along towards action or safety. There are some classics, too, like ‘Let’s do this thing’ and ‘We’ll take a stand here and show them who they’re f…ing with!’ And my favourite, uttered with stony deadpan by Aaron Eckhart’s Staff Sargeant Nantz, ‘Marines don’t quit.’

If the dialogue is lost in the mayhem, the mayhem itself is lost in the mayhem, in the fashionably chaotic hand-shaken camera style of filmmaking. It is obvious that the camera operator holds the camera with one hand while he runs around swatting at mosquitos released by the second assistant director with the other hand. This style has been recycled from films like Green Zone.

Eckhart, a talented actor with great range, makes a fine, square jawed, bloodied but not bowed Marine who has to earn his platoon’s trust and respect. It’s such a corny device, but who cares when the guns are pumpin’ and the alien bastards are firing back with deadly accuracy. These aliens are also vaguely familiar, stick-insect humanoid in shape and made with organic goo, as we discover when one is captured after being hit, with oval heads (that remind me of the bathroom light fitting at our place).

The support cast do an excellent job, with Ramon Rodriguez notable as the not-so-tough Sargeant and Michelle Rodriguez great as a tech specialist who’s handy with a gun. The film has a clear eye on its target audience, which is I suppose why it’s directed by Jonathan Liebesman of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the 2006 remake fame.

Review by Louise Keller:
It’s like being immersed in a war zone, with constantly shaky camera work, huge explosions and an alien enemy with unknown powers. A boys own adventure that combines combat with aliens, there are no surprises in screenwriter Christopher Bertolini’s script. In fact the surprise is that there is little in the script beyond the predictable patriotic fare in which marines embark on a treacherous mission and need to defeat the odds to save the day – and Los Angeles. The stakes are even higher, as Los Angeles is the final major city to save, which means this is a story about saving the world. Hooray! The production design is dense; the music offers a booming military-inspired score and the large stunts and visual effects will keep its young, male target market mesmerised.

The scene is set with military precision with evacuations taking place as meteors approach Earth with alarming speed. Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has had enough; controversially, he was awarded a silver star on his last assignment, while some of his men came home in a box. But with stakes as high as these, he is re-assigned and there’s tension with his superior (Ramon Rodriguez) who is younger and far less experienced. And marines never quit.

Eckhart, with his square jaw and good looks is the perfect hero in this setting and soon his platoon is joined by other members and civilians they are rescuing. Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Pena and Bridget Moynahan are among these. Much of the film feels like chaos with close tight shots, so there is little context to the action. The wider shots are more satisfying when we see what the Marines are up against: metallic drone aliens who are directed from their massive central system control.

The aliens make a fine adversary with their mechanical exterior and slimy insides. There’s little that is distinctive or original but the film gives a claustrophobic feeling of being locked down in a hazy, smoke-filled battle zone. The explosions are big to justify the stakes (and the budget) and the special effects team works overtime to give the film its pulse. It delivers what it promises, but I couldn’t help but feeling disappointed the storyline was lacking and the heart was manufactured.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (M)
(US, 2011)

CAST: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Peña, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan

PRODUCER: Jeffrey Chernov, Ori Marmur, Neal H. Moritz

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman

SCRIPT: Christopher Bertolini

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lukas Ettlin

EDITOR: Christian Wagner

MUSIC: Brian Tyler

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter Wenham

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2011







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