Battle Los Angeles
(M) Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan, Ramon Rodriguez
Not sure if it’s intolerance of disaster movies or that they have just become too ubiquitous to care, but there is a feeling of déjà vu with this latest alien “colonisation” film.
Have we become so desensitised to apocalyptic violence that these sorts of films have now become somewhat clichéd?
Modelled on the documentary immediacy and shaky camera work of previous films like Cloverfield and Black Hawk Down, Battle Los Angeles is like a mash-up of those films with aliens bearing down on all fronts and soldiers valiantly caught in the crossfire.
The plot is a carbon copy of films we’ve seen before: Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is about to retire after a personally tragic tour, but he barely walks out the door and says his goodbyes when meteors fall from the sky and begin to take over the coast of Los Angeles.
The aliens quickly turn downtown LA into a war zone and Nantz and his trusty band of grunts are deployed to find any civilians alive and bring them back to a safe zone so the military can air strike the coast to send the aliens packing.
Battle LA owes more than a passing debt to the recent District 9 and, before it, gung-ho patriotic flag waving films like Independence Day.
But where District 9 was trying to make a point about problems in South Africa, Battle LA is yet again about the way America, xenophobically, must shoot first and ask questions later.
The highly derivative nature of the story gives you no reason to care for the action on the screen. In fact, the more I see these films, the easier it is to switch off when you see the first hovering spaceship over an unsuspecting skyline.
And the less said about the shaky-cam way the film is shot the better. This reviewer began to wonder in the first half hour why it was necessary to not even hold the camera still when two characters were conversing over a table.
This is no character-driven drama, so you won’t find anything other than your standard-issue battle grunts, who are loyal to the end.
Aaron Eckhart is really the only discernable character in the film and he does a good job selling his world-weary staff sergeant and attempting to make us care for the unfolding situation.
Other actors are so badly written that the filmmakers decided to introduce them one by one with their names displayed on-screen.
This is an obvious attempt to get viewers to identify them but, once the fighting starts, they become utterly interchangeable.
Production design and computer imagery are all top shelf, with aliens seamlessly integrated with the live action but, again, sophisticated audiences have come to expect this from their alien disaster films.