Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Dir. Jonathan Liebesman

2 out of 5

Malicious aliens invade Earth for the umpteenth time in Battle: Los Angeles. They've come to steal our water supply, like so many extraterrestrials and Bond villains before them. I recall that in Signs, the creatures' Achilles heel was good old H20, a plot device that seems more novel with each successive film that exploits the threat of hydro-terrorism as the axe hanging over the head of all terrestrial life. This one hoists all the necessary signposts of half-decent military porn: shaky-cam 'immediacy,' an inexhaustible supply of ammo, a leader (Aaron Eckhart) with a shameful past, and Michelle Rodriguez.

Much of the movie is dedicated to a search-and-rescue mission behind enemy lines. It just so happens that our heroes also manage to deconstruct the physiology, technology, and strategy of the invaders and map out a plan for total human victory in the process. You could say Battle: Los Angeles resembles District 9 without the subtext, but that would be giving it too much credit. Battle barely even qualifies as text - the diverse cast of grunts is hardly developed beyond their hasty introductions, though Eckhart slips easily into the mannerisms of a square-jawed Marine (and in a cloying subplot, a surrogate super-dad).

The most commendable parts about Battle are the things that are not there. There's no shoehorned romance, even though Eckhart makes nice with one of the stranded civvies, a beautiful (and single!) veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan). There is no gratuitous destruction of famous landmarks. The film doesn't try to impress us with its special effects - though they are quite remarkable - and uses them effectively. By the way, the title is a bit misleading as most of the fighting takes place in Santa Monica. I got a kick out of the military brass planning maneuvers on streets where I and so many other Angelinos jog, bike, and play. Watching a war there, however, is simply a chore.

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