Disclaimer – I originally saw this film when it was in theaters.
I remember the marketing for Battle: LA very clearly. Specifically, I remember the first trailer that used The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky Turned Black by Johann Johannsson. It was an excellent trailer. It sold a series of images that looked awesome. A war movie against aliens? Yes! And it all built to this great crescendo of tension.
If only the film lived up to half of that trailer. Battle: Los Angeles tells the story, if you can call it a story, of a few marines attempting to fight back against the alien invaders. To be more specific, it tells the story of Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, played by Aaron Eckhart, who, as we’re just told, got some of his men killed during an operation in Iraq. Also, it’s the day of his retirement. Surprising plot, I know.
There are other characters in this movie, if you can call them characters. That’s one of the problems with the film. None of the characters, besides Michael Nantz are built up at all. I wouldn’t even call most of them one-dimension. The true problem with that is the same problem games like Call of Duty has. If we don’t care about the characters, and they’re put into dangerous situations, no one is going to care about the situation. The audience has no connection to the events.
The setpieces in this generally just aren’t exciting. It’s fair to say that there’s a good amount of action in this film, but it’s important to note that it isn’t good action. Much like the entire film, it’s simply dull. One of the opening setpieces has the Marines pinned down in the streets. They’re taking fire from all angles. Sounds cool, but guess what? There’s no tension. It never pulls you in and gets you excited. In fact, nothing “cool” ever really happens in the film. The closest the film ever comes is the finale, and even then, it never feels dangerous or interesting. A large contributor to that is the lack of interesting ideas for setpieces. They’re all general war movie cliches. Just having them be assulted on the bridge isn’t exciting by itself. Have the bridge threatening to break from under them. Having them hold out for a certain amount of time is the exact same thing as having them wait for evacuation. Find ways to spice it up. Also, just having quite a few setpieces doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t good. It’s a quality over quantity thing.
Now it’s time to mention that the camera work in this film is just annoying. To filmmakers everywhere, 9 times out of 10, shaky cam is a bad idea. It does nothing to assist the film. It actually only makes it worse, because the camera is ALWAYS moving. I don’t think there’s a set shot in the entire film. Not even for the calmer scenes. If it actually fit and added something to the film, I wouldn’t mind, but this isn’t Cloverfield.
I mentioned Call of Duty earlier, and there’s a distinct reason for that. Battle: LA is the most video game-ish a film as ever been, and that includes actual adaptations of video games. Now the reason that’s an insult to gaming is that this is the worst of gaming. It’s the terrible, generic plot, the bad action, bad writing, Battle: LA is everything gaming is attempting to move away from. And at least in that game, you’re controlling the events (if only slightly).
If I had written this review closer to the film’s release, it probably would’ve been more positive. However, this film has the Avatar Affect on me. That being the farther I get, the more I start to dislike it. As it stands now, I wouldn’t say I hate the film, but you dare bring it up to me. It’s really lazy filmmaking.