314 of 358 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is a movie that really isn't anything new. In fact, if you seen Black Hawk Down and District 9, it may look familiar. What this film does that makes it so great is that it can combine these elements together so well, that you really can't believe that this hasn't been done before. They made the right choice by including a Marine platoon into the script, rather than some nameless group of soldiers or whoever wears a uniform so that Johnny Civilian can get the picture that they are U.S. troops. It isn't the most perfect depiction of Marines, as I was one and remember the "F" bomb being used a whole heck of a lot more frequently, but it is passable. Aaron Eckhart really does a great job in his role as a battle tested Staff Sergeant. I think anyone else playing this character would have a hard time pulling it off exactly how he did. The rest of the cast is not all that bad either, given the scope of the story. And I am not a fan of Michelle Rodriguez, but she was tolerable- for the most part.
You have to remember that this is a movie about an alien invasion, it is not mona lisa smile. You have probably seen these movies before, but not like this. This is urban warfare fighting in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. It's fun and exciting, and better than half of the other "realistic" war movies that are already out. I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes sci-fi and military movies. You wont be disappointed. The critics have taken a proverbial dump on this movie, but what do they know anyway. This is exactly the movie I expected it to be when I walked in to the theater, and a little bit more with some character believability and Aaron Eckhart's acting. I will be eagerly awaiting the Blu-ray release so that I can watch this all over again in HD in the comfort of my living room. So suspend your rational thought process for a bit and enjoy Battle: Los Angeles for what it is; a science fiction war movie. Hoo-Rah.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2011
At it's heart, Battle: Los Angeles is yet another retelling of H. G. Wells' seminal story, War of the Worlds. Like that classic invasion story, this one begins with a meteor shower that takes a turn for the worse when it becomes apparent that those meteors are actually extraterrestrial vessels containing a deadly cargo of alien soldiers hellbent on conquering our world for our natural resources, especially our water.
What unfolds is a world war where the unprepared forces of Earth must confront an unexpected threat from beyond. Thrust into this maelstrom is a Marine unit, largely lead by Sgt. Michael Nantz, tasked with rescuing some civilians who are trapped in a police station that is now behind enemy lines. As you can probably figure out on your own, when you send a Marine unit on a collision course with alien invaders, well, your gonna get a lot of fireworks.
So, that's the summation. Does this movie work?
I don't know what movie the critics were watching, but it wasn't the awesomely entertaining Battle: Los Angeles I watched last night!
Now, don't get me wrong - this isn't a perfect movie, nor a completely original one - but nonetheless I found BLA (I'm tired of writing out the name ) to be a throwback to classic sci-fi film making of the 1950's - you know the type: those classic alien invasion tales heavily influenced by the Red Scare; the "aliens are evil and need to be gun-downed by red blooded Americans" type of tale that they haven't made in a long while. On this, BLA succeeds wonderfully as we get to watch US Marines, along with the USAF and Army, attempt to battle back and stop the alien invasion over the course of approximately 48 hours. The aliens are clearly evil - we get to watch a bunch of television news clips where they can be seen gunning down civies - so this is definitely not one of your pansy, politically correct Avatar-like flicks where the humans are the bad guys - and I am tremendously grateful for that moral clarity. These aliens are bad and we are good. Now it's time to kill 'em.
But in addition to this being a tribute of 50s-era sci-fi, this movie is also a tribute to classic war flicks. As you watch BLA, you will find yourself thinking less in terms of Independence Day and more along the lines of Battleground, Black Hawk Down, or The Hurt Locker. In other words, this movie is, first and foremost, a military sci fi flick, the likes of which we haven't seen since James Cameron's classic Aliens. This is a movie about war and the men who have to fight it battle by battle, and not about soldiers that have time for existential ponderings or deep discussions about the "nature of war." Nor is it about giant robots or befuddled Jedi warriors. Thank the maker!
Helping the movie is the fact that it looks and sounds great. The FX are impressive, so much so that I was surprised this wasn't one of those 80 or 90 minute smash and grabs, but rather a movie that just ran short of two hours. The visuals do an excellent job of bringing the war to life with vim and vigor, in the process creating some very memorable scenes. I particularly enjoyed the realization of the aliens, not that they were particularly original - there is a lot of District 9 to them - but the fact that they were the analogues of the US Marines. That is, unlike other movies that seem to get carried away by flights of fantasy when it comes to imagining an alien invasion, this movie stuck to it's mil sci-fi roots and imagined the aliens to largely function like their earth military counter-parts. So we get to see alien foot-soldiers, alien officers (taller than the rest), alien drones, alien aircraft, even an incredibly cool and realistically clumsy alien crew-served heavy weapon!
Likewise, the sound FX are well done, bringing the battle to vivid life with all the appropriate sounds of war, as well as some alien noises (I particularly enjoyed the 'pop-pop' of the alien reaction thrusters ). If you have a surround sound system, crank of the volume!
Lastly, I found the cinematography to be handled well - this is where I vehemently disagree with the critics who were wont to call it "nauseating". While I don't usually care for the shaky camera documentary style, especially when we are merely watching two men having a sedate conversation (as this movie does ), once the action starts, it does an excellent job of bring the battles to frenetic life. Between the audio and visual FX, and the camera work, the battles in BLA will have you on the edge of your seat.
So, what's not to like?
First and foremost, the length of the movie. It runs for 116 minutes, which is too short! I wanted to see so much more! I mean, this is a world-wide invasion! I can imagine all sort of interesting battles, missions, guerrilla actions, and alien autopsies (there is an impromptu one in here, though ). Two hours is just too short! Fortunately, the powers that be have let it be known that this is the first of a series of films. I hope we can look forward to Battle: NY, Battle: Paris, Battle: Tokyo (all mentioned in the film). I also wish them luck with any and all game tie-ins. Maybe we'll even get some books and a TV show?
But there is a more serious problem with the running length being too short. This movie tries to cram much too much into its running time, resulting in a movie that proceeds at a breathless pace. It runs so fast that as soon as the movie begins you feel as if you came in late and need to catch up on what you missed. This is a shame for two reasons:
First, the breathless pace hurts character development. BLA is not Aliens in that there are no memorable characters outside of Sgt. Nantz. This is because the movie spends a bare 10 minutes or so introducing them to us, reducing them to "the guy getting married", "the friend of the guy getting married", "the raw recruit", etc. Even Sgt. Nanzt, well played by Aaron Echhart, lacks serious development, which is a shame because he seems to have an interesting past involving a costly action in Afghanistan where he lost some of his men, an issue that will dog him throughout this film. The mere fact that after watching the whole film I am still hazy about just what exactly happened to Nantz is indicative of the lack of serious character development. The same goes for Corpsman (or, if you're President Obama, 'corpseman') Jibril Adukwu, a soldier of African decent who made for an interesting and likeable character. The movie needed some more time to develop these guys, but rather chose to rush off to war.
Secondly, I lament the films pace because it eliminates the opportunity to crank up the tension of the impending invasion. As with H. G. Wells classic story, as well as the two movie versions of his book, the best part of an alien invasion is knowing that it is coming and being unable to warn the characters in the film. Unfortunately, instead of the drip-drip-drip of slowly building tension and apprehension, BLA pretty much just does the equivalent of "a weird meteor storm is coming....this means WAR!!!!" >Sigh< So much wasted tension potential.
Another complaint is that is does borrow somewhat obviously from other films, particularly Aliens and District 9. For example, Michelle Rodriguez pretty much reprises the role of Pvt. Vasquez. What is more, there is a scene where the Marines take a LAV and start running over the aliens, including shooting one in the face during the process...sound familiar? And there is a District 9-esque buried spacecraft as well. Add in a demolished US airbase as in ID4, and you can pretty much conclude that when BLA borrows material, it does so unabashedly. Fortunately, most of this borrowing is in the last half hour, so it doesn't get too annoying. I guess they just started to run out of original material.
Lastly, the ending battle is a bit too contrived and rushed. I would expect an alien command center to be a tough nut to crack, but not here. It is painfully obvious that the film needed a feel good moment to end the story but was running out of time (or money), so they threw this together. The battle does have some good action to it, but it is ultimately yet another take on needing to shoot a photon torpedo into an exhaust shaft that is only three meters wide. Oh well. If Independence Day can be praised for its "sci-fi tributes", so can this film.
Now we come to the important question:
Why did the critics so hate this film?
I can only offer two possibilities, with the truth no doubt being somewhere in the middle:
First, this is a very patriotic movie. Here, the military men and women are portrayed as larger than life heroes, risking all to save their country. In fact, they are so heroic that, like Space Marines, they begin inspiring civilians to bravery in the face of the enemy. I have no doubt this ticked off more than a few of the more, er, cosmopolitan critics.
The second reason I think the critics disliked this movie is because of it's authentic mil sci-fi trappings. This is a film that has NOTHING in common with the juvenile sci-fi nonsense we've been force fed for years now. There aren't any teens running around with an "all spark" to save the world where the adults have failed (indeed, here we have the opposite where the older Sgt. Nantz keeps the kids in the fight and not vice versa), nor are they any lighthearted comedic moments to remind us that alien invasions can be fun, too. This is a largely grim movie (but could be grimmer - darn you PG-13!) about war. Quite frankly, I think most critics, lulled to sleep by years of fluffy Transformer and Star Wars/Star Trek flicks, just didn't understand what was going on. After all, the last real mil sci-fi we had was Cameron's Aliens...some fifteen years ago! That says a lot right there. I truly believe this film just confused the lot of them with its lack of after school content.
So there you have it, my review of Battle: Los Angeles. I liked this movie...really liked it. I liked it so much, that I encourage you to spend money on it via DVDs, BluRays, and VoD. The cast and crew of this movie deserve to be rewarded for making such an enjoyable film. But more than that, serious sci-fi fans need to step up and declare that if a studio has the courage to return to mature, old school sci-fi, they will be rewarded with cold, hard cash. By no means a perfect film, Battle: Los Angeles is nonetheless one worth supporting not so much for what it is, as for what it isn't.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2011
Having read some of the reviews from top line critics (including the downright ridiculous one from Roger Ebert), I decided to given this film a chance through Wal-Mart's exclusive steel book release. This item includes a Blu-Ray disc of the movie with features and a second disc that is a standard DVD with just the feature (Probably identical to the disc that is availabe in a RedBox).
Jon Liebesman's fourth feature is his best, though that's not exactly putting the movie on a very tall pedestal. I really have wanted to get behind this guy because he really seems committed to creating strong genre films; unfortunately, his previous horror themed efforts (including the studio botch "Darkness Falls" and Platinum Dunes' "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning") just weren't very good. His last feature, a DTV effort called "the Killing Room" was good enough that I was willing to trust Liebesman to take me through yet another alien invasion.
Lets get this out of the way early: "Battle" Los Angeles" is NOT a great movie. It's not "Platoon" and it's not "Aliens." But this movie is an entertaining two hour ride that pulls together several eye catching action scenes around a central character conflict that--while not ground breaking--is enough to buoy a simple, straight forward story.
I found it refreshing to see a Sci-Fi movie that portrays the military as a group of honorable individuals that are still human. These soldiers are not emotionless plot devices or ham-fisted idiots: they act like REAL people. This is in sharp contrast to recent movies like "Super 8" or "X-Men: Fist Class" where the same tired 'corrupt military' plot thread is dredged from the grave to create a human antagonist for a fantastic story.
The style of the movie is akin to "Black Hawk Down" and used a lot of shaky-Cam. Some people really do not like this style of filmmaking, but I thought it was perfectly suited for this story and dutifully brought to life the "frantic" nature of the story.
The acting was mostly harmless with the exception of Aaron Eckhart, who did a phenomenal job in the central role. He did a dead on version of an uptight vet I know and the character was easy to identify with.
Not much is ever found out about the alien race beyond what is relevant to the characters we're following and while I would've liked to know more about the alien race (they had a unique look that reminded me of Black Manta), it was the better artistic choice to keep the viewer in the dark. Because we no so little, the aliens become more imposing. It also allows the characters to make suppositions about their situation and develop their personalities beyond broad stereotypes (most of them don't get much development; however, we are thrown into a combat situation fairly quickly and I thought they did an admirable job of giving the more important characters brief moments to thicken). The movie doesn't stonewall itself to force developing characters, which can be considered a plus or a minus depending on what you want in a movie.
In the end, this is just two hours of fun. I remember when I was a kid this was the movie I always wanted to see: Soldiers versus monsterous beings in all out combat. It's not "Aliens," but it does more right than wrong and resists temptation to fall into the one cliche I hoped it would avoid: making the military look like nothing more than a bunch of immoral, heartless robots.
I can now honestly say that I'm looking forward to Liebesman's next effort and have a movie with his name on it that I can recommend to other people.