Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Aaron Eckhart
Duration: 1 hour 56 minutes
First things first: go to Youtube and watch the first trailer for Battle: Los Angeles. I’ll wait…
Hi there. Welcome back. You’re probable crying. That’s to be expected. It is like Sigur Ros had babies with Transformers and the result was some sort of teary, ethereal, bone crunching, heartbreaking war-bot. The bad news is that the song featured in that teaser – ‘The Suns Gone Dim ‘ by Johan Johannsson – is nowhere to be found in the film. Instead the filmmakers have chosen to open with ‘California Love’ by 2Pac Shakur. You see what I’m getting at? Despite the shrewdly misleading marketing, Battle Los Angeles is every bit the meathead blockbuster we’ve disappointingly come to expect from Hollywood when ET’s and special effects are involved. Hopes that lessons were learned from the commercial success of Neil Blomkamp’s smash District 9 and critical success of Gareth Edwards outstanding Monsters in 2010, appear to have been in vain.
Marine staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) and his new platoon to come to the rescue as an alien invasion hits the streets of L.A., and it’s not long before this highly strung band of brothers become the last line of defence against a highly powerful force of robo-drones, soldiers and superior firepower. TV’s reports in the background (much like Monsters) are used to drip feed exposition about the worldwide invasion, with even Ireland apparently taking a pounding from the enemy.
Films successful in this genre, such as Independence Day, go to great lengths to introduce us to an array of different characters from all walks of life that will feature, sometimes very significantly, in our story. Battle… effectively introduces us to a dozen identikit jarheads with great teeth who all talk too much and start screaming indecipherably as soon as the shrapnel starts flying. They’re each given a line or two of cringeworthy ‘dialogue’ in the opening 10 minutes, but it’s utterly forgettable and un-engaging, making us apathetic to their fates once they hit the decimated streets of L.A. In short, it’s cool when they all start dying. The filmmakers themselves seem to have realized this shortcoming as, 40 minutes in, two female characters played by Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan are introduced apropos to nothing. Both flirt with our leading man – got to make sure audiences don’t think Eckhart is in the US Army for the man-ass! – and then proceed to duck and squint until the credits roll.
So, even with such hollow material, is there at least enough CRASH! CRAAASH! CRAAAAASSSSHHHHH! to divert the critical faculties for the films (very lengthy feeling) 110 minutes? No, there is not. There is a great deal of grand scale destruction going on, but it never feels epic. There’s no jaw-carpet interface. Yes, it’s a grunts-eye view of the battle, but even in those terms it’s curiously lacking in dynamism. Helicopters and human beings explode, machine guns blaze almost perpetually, spaceships fire rockets and bodies lie strewn on almost every street corner. But the entire mess is presented in a consistent range of intensity that it just becomes dull and eventually quite boring. Being a 12-certificate, certain punches are pulled in terms of gore and language, but that is no excuse for such uninteresting creature and ship design. The foot soldiers are featureless and unconvincingly rendered, while the alien aircraft are from the Michael Bay school of over-complicated mecha and, with rare exceptions, every special effect just looks like a special effect.
Thank the gods, then, for Aaron Eckhart. The 42-year-old actor is in a different league than the rest of the supporting performers, making his character compelling and believable, even when lumbered with some horribly clunky dialogue. But it’s not €10 worth of ‘compelling and believable’.
Save your money. Watch the trailer 55 times.