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Battle: Los Angeles: This Battle Isn’t Just A Loss– It’s A Massacre

I hated everything about this movie. It’s a joyless, cheap-looking, illogical, and manipulative picture. I’m struggling to find literally one single thing that I could say is worthwhile in this film. The explosion often drown out the dialogue? They managed to make Skyline look thoughtful? Aaron Eckhart’s chin cleft gives the best performance in the film? It’s a two-hour long commercial for the Marines, except in real TV commercials for the Marines, the characters are better developed. I want action films about alien invasions to be a good time, and I was looking forward to this based on the trailer. Instead, I get something I can barely call a “film”: no characters, no plot, no good action, no thought, no fun.

When I say this movie has no plot, I mean it. We enter, and the “characters” are flying into battle. There are flashbacks for us to meet the “characters,” where we learn they are types. I’ll list these types for you. The Square-Jawed Hero. The Reliable Sharpshooter. The Guy With a Pregnant Wife. Angry Black Guy. The Guy Getting Married Soon, who is also The Young Boss With No Field Experience. The African Guy. The Obnoxious Guy From Jersey. The PTSD Guy. The Virgin. And my personal favorite, Black Guy With Glasses. What do we know about him? Well, he’s black. And he wears glasses. For the characters that have what may resemble storylines, like the Guy Getting Married Soon, the PTSD Guy, and The Virgin, never you fear– there is literally no payoff or further mention of any of these traits after they are first brought up.

Aliens attack. They go into combat. All of the other major cities have been taken over, and Los Angeles is their last stand– funny, since the multiple wide shots with poor CGI have told me the entire city is burning and all people have been evacuated. Their plan to take Los Angeles back: drop a bomb on it. Eckhart’s crew is sent in to extract some civilians who didn’t make it out. It’s hell out there. Along the way, they meet Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Sassy Latina Who Didn’t Just Get By On Her Looks, as she tells us multiple times. They also encounter Cute Little Kid, Cute Little Kid’s Dad Who Is Doomed To Die, and That Woman Who Looks Like Bridget Moynihan, But Way Uglier (played by Bridget Moynihan).

A word about the aliens: when we first encounter them, they can jump from rooftop to rooftop, and they are seemingly impossible to kill. When the troop encounters an injured one, they look for a way to kill it, stabbing it multiple times, looking for the smallest weakness. Nothing works. Ugly Bridget Moynihan comes up and says, “Maybe I can help… I’m a veterinarian.” Because at veterinary school, the first thing you learn is how to kill aliens! They find the weakness, which is located under their right arm on the side– it’s essentially like trying to stab a heart by going through the ribs under the armpit. However, now that they’ve located the weakness, they manage to shoot this seemingly-impossible-to-locate position on the first try for the majority of the rest of the film. Even the Dad, who has no military training, gets into the action and kills some aliens at a key moment.

The question is then: why make them so hard to kill if they must be easy to kill later when convenient to the plot? Answer: the movie breaks its own rules constantly. A Marine fires easily a hundred rounds into one alien which gets knocked down but keeps coming back, yet when they blow up some C4, every alien even in proximity is killed. The aliens also have guns attached organically to their arms, implying to Eckhart’s troop that “these things are serious.” Funny, I would’ve thought that after they destroyed nearly every major city, not because they have an arm tumor that can shoot explosive beams. Additionally, we learn by watching the news (how are broadcast signals being sent? Didn’t Atlanta and NYC get destroyed already? etc.), the aliens appear to be here for our water, since it’s the only source of liquid water in the known universe. Isn’t it a little arrogant to think we have the only liquid water? We thought we were the only sophisticated lifeform out there, and we were obviously wrong when they traveled light years to blow up our monuments. Also, if you can perfect space travel and organic gun transplant, wouldn’t it be easier to find a planet with a ton of frozen water and… melt it? You have weapons which cause explosions and flame, would you really go out of the way and risk defeat in battle because having to deal with ice is simply too inconvenient?

I know, I know: I shouldn’t be bothering with logic. This is a fun alien movie, why think about it, right? The problem is– the movie isn’t fun. It takes itself really seriously. There is approximately one joke in the whole film, and everything else is grim and sullen, full of children in peril, death of Marines, and mourning of loved ones. The action isn’t cool– it’s disorienting, choppy, full of mediocre special effects, and incomprehensible. So if a movie tells me it’s not interested in being “fun” by refusing to have a sense of humor or even coming close to letting the audience know it realizes how stupid the concept is, then I assume the film wants to be taken seriously. Bad move– instead, my audience looked for laughs and found them in the form of Eckhart’s big motivational speech. He lists the names and numbers of Marines who died under his watch, and how they haunt him every day, and they were his friends and damn good Marines, and other such cliches. He then pauses and says, “But none of that is important right now,” which is a bad thing to say anyway after a seemingly important speech, but even worse when the timing and writing are both comedic. My audience busted out into guffaws.

And then, there’s the reason I became violently opposed to this movie: all of the horrifying manipulation by using the patriotism of the audience against them. How do we meet Eckhart? He puts on his Marine uniform, looks at a flag, and salutes it. Then, the movie says the word Marine roughly a hundred times. That seems like a joke, but I’m probably under the actual count by 25-50. “Marines never say die!” “We’re Marines, dammit!” “When the going gets tough, the Marines get going!” “I didn’t come here to quit… I’m a Marine!” They repeat it so often, that at one moment, when a Marine character sacrifices himself bravely, I found myself getting emotional for a second. When I immediately wondered why, I realized: the movie was forcing me to think of actual Marines and the sacrifices they make daily, and my care for them is violently yanked from me and placed into the one-dimensional cyphers dying on screen. The film uses the death of real Marines in combat to replace character development. And that fucking disgusts me.

At the movie’s end, which is totally illogical and awful but I’ll spare you the details, the characters surviving are heroes and are invited to get some breakfast. Instead, they say they’re Marines, and they’re not hungry, and they prepare to go back into battle, setting up for a sequel which nobody with a brain wants. I was so upset and disappointed and angry leaving the theater that it made me wonder: I’d saved my Unpopped, zero-kernel rating for movies which were bad from beginning to end, showing zero expertise in execution, performance, or even conception. This is a movie with sizable budget, a decent concept in theory, and enough okay images to make a great movie trailer. Yet everything that was on the screen made me angry. I’m not convinced they didn’t make exactly the movie they wanted to make. Yet because the movie they wanted to make took itself so seriously, used its money poorly, didn’t bother with a script, and whether it was intentional or not, they used the memories of fallen soldiers in order to trick their audiences to care, I decided– why waste half a kernel on this piece of shit when they didn’t waste half a minute of thinking when making the movie?

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~ by russellhainline on March 24, 2011.

One Response to “Battle: Los Angeles: This Battle Isn’t Just A Loss– It’s A Massacre”

  1. This movie was hillarious! I particularly liked how the officer at the beggining was bragging about how they ruled the air because at this point they were unaware of the alien aircraft, but then about 30 or so minutes in they meet said “sassy latina” and she tells them she was sent to track the ship controlling their aircraft!
    Anyway loved the review.

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