“Battle: Los Angeles” (2011)

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★★★☆☆

The good news is that this one doesn’t suck as bad as “Skyline” … which was gawdawful. Nor is it the smarmy puddle of drool that was the remake of “War of the Worlds.” It’s kind of like an updated “Independence Day” – same basic plot with better graphics, without the humor, and with more of a focus on combat than the big picture.

Aaron Eckhart plays SSgt. Nantz, a battle-weary Marine with a slightly colored recent past who’s just turned in his retirement papers. He’s all set to sail into the sunset when, well, you know, the aliens invade. The rest of the movie is pretty predictable. Troops rush in, most get blowed up, then they just happen to stumble upon the vital clue to beating the aliens, and one man saves the planet. Yay.

So, enough about the plot. The acting is decent, albeit very corny in many places. The effects are awesome, though somewhat over-done. Meaning there is so much going on so fast in the action scenes that you really can’t tell sometimes what’s going on. Maybe that was intentional, maybe not. They could have slowed it down just a hair.

The aliens don’t really come across as all that scary. Maybe we’re just jaded now, but they didn’t look or move in a other-worldly way that would induce fear in the audience. They looked awkward and skinny and kind of … well … lame.

The opening of the movie did a decent job setting up the main characters so that by the time they started croaking you kind of knew who they were and gave half a damn. Since the squad was still being trained, it’s OK that they really didn’t seem to know what they were doing.

I have no idea why Bridget Moynahan and Michelle Rodriguez bothered being in this one. They were little more than bit-players. I have to assume they were paid a bundle to lend their names to an otherwise no-name cast.

And then … there’s the problems with this movie. For starters, you never want to see little kids, especially with their overly-dedicated parents, in an action movie. Focus instantly shifts from blowing shit up to protecting the little varmints, or explaining why God will punish the aliens for eating mommy’s brain. I have to assume they threw the brats in there for the family audience, but it was a strategic blunder as it slowed the film down with crap that added nothing to an action movie.

Technical and plot problems abound. For instance:

  • The aliens can home in on radio transmission – even from a cellphone – but have no thermal detection equipment.
  • It’s sort of explained that the aliens want our water, but this significant strategic point is never actually made use of in the movie. I guess I should be thankful they gave a reason for the aliens invading.
  • The aliens somehow miss seeing a city bus driving for miles, exposed, in broad daylight, on an LA freeway.
  • The weak point to shoot at the aliens and kill them quick is “to the right of where the heart should be” – oddly enough, the aliens seem to have forgotten to put body armor over this key location.
  • The aliens also appear to have no night-vision equipment either – humans can move around, fly helicopters, you name it, at night.
  • Oh, aliens appear to be kind of deaf too – towards the end of the movie the Marines are sneaking around the alien base looking for the C&C unit and can’t find it and Eckhart lets out a loud “Damn It” … which no alien hears.
  • When the aliens deploy their air assets, there is no visible battle for air superiority over the city. Which is odd as a single Stinger missile takes out an alien aircraft at the end of the movie, so there’s no reason a few squadrons of F16’s and F15’s couldn’t have done some serious damage.
  • As mentioned, the aliens are adept at homing in on radio transmissions. They also have their own highly complex C&C ship. Despite this emphasis in their technology, they neglect to destroy any of the telecommunications satellites orbiting Earth, so there is TV coverage and country-to-country communication throughout the movie.
  • The helicopter sent to evacuate the fireteam sent to pick up civilian survivors doesn’t wait around to pick up the civilian survivors, instead taking on wounded Marines. Marines would put the mission first and have the helicopter come back for the walking wounded.

All in all this is good mind-numbing fun, but it’s not a great movie. There are plenty of slow points and it doesn’t take long before the special effects all kind of blur together. Worth seeing, just don’t go in expecting too much.