Saturday, March 19, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Go Go Go

This is probably the last of the slew of alien invasion films that we've seen over the last couple of months, the other two being the relatively lower budgeted Skyline and Monsters, before Battle: Los Angeles, whose title seems to suggest a franchise of sorts on the way. It surely wouldn't look out of place with its big budgeted treatment and being a special effects extravaganza, and for action junkies who enjoy multiple explosions happening over a short span of time, then this film is for you.

Set a few months from now in August, the premise has a series of meteorites all bounded to hit Earth, whose appearance and phenomenon have so far eluded the best of observatories around the world. And to await their impact, director Jonathan Liebesman sets aside enough time to introduce in brief terms, the group of soldiers who will be bandied together in a hell on Earth, allowing us to recognize some before all hell breaks loose. Amongst the protagonist is Aaron Eckhart's Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, a dogged and highly decorated soldier with his own whispers to his reputation, on the brink of retirement, but being recalled for what would be a simple evacuation operation when the meteorites touched down, and turn out to be mode of transportation to blood thirsty aliens decked out in gun totting exo-skeleton suits.

So begins what would be a high octane, shaky cam version of an alien invasion adventure, where you're made to see events unfold as if through the eyes of an embedded journalist as we follow the crew of Staff Sergeant Nanz and his men under the rookie leadership of 2nd Lt William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), a platoon commander who had topped his class, but lacking in real world combat experience, forming quite the testy superior-subordinate relationship with SSG Nantz. Some relationship and leadership issues get brought to the forefront especially between the SSG and his men, and allows for some dramatic pregnant pauses as some relief from the visual and aural assault of the senses.

For war film junkies, the enemy may not be from around here, but this allows for some war action nonetheless, with military hardware given some exposure, though not as much as say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which had a broad spectrum of the US military participate in that film. Here it's mostly our ground platoon of US Marines, armed to the teeth with their primary and secondary weapons, but sans any direct air superiority, nor involvement by naval forces even if the aliens did a splash down around the world.

There are plenty of moments in the film that makes it look like a US Marines recruitment drive video, painting the spirit of the unit in excellent light in their not wanting to leave anyone behind, going all out to fulfill missions placed in the unit's way, and frankly being the heroes to save the day. In some ways the narrative unfolded like a computer game, with sub-missions such as an evacuation, protecting the civilians, an escape to an army base that took a leaf out of Jan de Bont's Speed complete with a bus and a hole in a freeway, and standing and holding ground for a last hurrah, amongst other scenarios and missions put in the film, with such makeshift objectives leading to an inevitable stand off finale.

Like Independence Day, the aliens here have inherent weaknesses so easy to exploit, and the finale was quite the insult to intelligence, with the aliens having the technical know how to travel those light years here, but doing little to fortify their single point of failure that made it seem a little ludicrous, other than for the filmmakers to come to a positive conclusion, instead of the darker ones in Skyline and Monsters. A significant portion of time also got down to finding out the anatomy of the alien forces, but alas precision killing gave way to the more random, panicked spray that made you wonder about the various inconsistencies on the alien foot soldiers.

Still, Battle: Los Angeles is a guilt trip that I found myself enjoying, coupled with Aaron Eckhart making it believable that here's someone you would fight tooth and nail with to repel back enemy forces here to colonize and massacre. It never had the objective in being the perfect movie, but in terms of sheer entertainment, this one succeeded tremendously. Inner fanboy says recommended.

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