Archive for March 19th, 2011

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E.T. is back…to save Earth!

March 19, 2011
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Review of “Battle Los Angeles”

March 19, 2011

Duck! Incoming!

My son and I went to see “Battle: Los Angeles” this afternoon. It’s no longer the biggest movie out there, so even though it was a Saturday afternoon we had the VIP theater at Muvico Rosemont to ourselves. Pretty dang good home theater, folks!

My son had seen it last week, so he had a couple of things he told me to forewarn me about the movie. He told me it wasn’t a typical alien invasion movie, and he was completely correct. In fact, there was almost no backstory on the aliens – why they were here, how their civilization was organized, where they were from – nothing.

And it didn’t matter. With a 24-hour flashback at the beginning to set up the backstory for Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhardt), the remainder of the two hours is a nonstop battle. It focuses on a small group of Marines at first tasked with infiltrating past a line held by the alien enemy to rescue some civilians at an abandoned police station. The Marines end up doing much more – at least those who survive.

The movie focuses on the small group of MarinesĀ  and civilians (and one Air Force info specialist) in a small area almost exclusively. It could have been a battle film from any of many military actions. I’ve read that it has been compared to “Blackhawk Down.” I’ve still not seen that movie, but I can believe it. There is a lot of this film that is independent of the fact that the enemy is from another planet.

Aaron Eckhardt

It’s a pretty good ensemble cast, too. No single cast member has to carry anything big except Eckhardt, and he does a fine job. All the cast members contribute well to the tone of the film as well as the plot, and, as per Roger Ebert’s rule of thumb, you do care about them by the end of the film – even those that are killed off early on.

CGI is good but not the driving force of the film, which is kind of nice. It’s probably overall a bigger part of the movie than in “District 9,” but not much. Much of the EFX work is practical – explosions, guns firing, stuff falling and flying around. Nothing otherworldly or particularly deus ex machina about the plot. (Well, a bit at the end, but it doesn’t feel forced.)

The eeeeevil aliens!

There is one bit that is forced. The aliens, according to CNN, are here to take our water. Huh? According to the news report on the TV in the background, the aliens need water in a liquid state, not frozen. Really? They have interstellar travel, but they can’t mine comets for ice? They have high-tech weapons but don’t know how to melt ice? If you can travel in space, there are all kinds of places in a solar system where water is easier to come by that by attacking an inhabited planet. That’s wasteful of resources.

When I’m it a science fiction movie situation like this, I just sing the lyrics from “Mystery Science 3000”:

If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science fact,
Just repeat to yourself, “It’s just a show,
I should really just relax,”

(By the way, that was the motivation for the Visitors in the old “V” series. I know, not very clever, even for back in the day.)

Anyway, you don’t have to like military SF to like this film. It’s a military movie, yes, but very much about the trials of a small group, not an “Independence Day” style epic. I recommend it. It was well done.