Battle: Los Angles
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Battle: Los Angles

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There is more potential within the science fiction genre than any other type of story. After all Sci-Fi is free of the normal constraints of time and space so the possibilities are infinite. For this reason a flick that relies too heavily on storylines, archetypes and even specific plot devices that have been worn thin borders on the unforgivable. The genre is so rich in potential that just taking elements used before and just slamming them together in a slightly different order cannot justify a movie. Unfortunately this is the case with one of the latest alien invasion flicks to hit the Cineplex. Battle: Los Angles. It has been called the synthesis of ‘Blackhawk Down’ and Independence Day’ but it lacks the coherency of the former of the intelligent humor infused action of the latter. There was a SyFy channel Saturday night flick of similar name and premise and it wasn’t all that much better. Considering the budget for this film was $70 million, well over tenfold more than the made for cable version it doesn’t say a lot about throwing money at a movie to solve production problems. ‘Battle: Los Angles’ was intended as a spring break special effects extravaganza but the effects used are barely up to what a good science fiction television series like ‘ABC’s recent reinvention of ‘V’ mustered. Actually after using that series as an example it treats the subject far better than here. All an effects driven flick has to do is take a framework of a story and use that as a scaffold to support the latest in imaginative computer generated effects. This usually results in more sizzle than steak but that can be enough for as fun afternoon. ‘Battle: Los Angles’ has a difficult task in even generating the sizzle. Anyone who has been a fan of alien invasion flicks for any amount of time will find most of your viewing time devoted to recalling just how much better each scene was done in prior treatments of the subject matter. Extraterrestrials crossing the galaxy to take over our little blue speck has been used more time in film that you can count and in almost every instance the results bested the offering here. There is little here to set this movie apart from the pack which ultimately a shame.

The screenwriter, Christopher Bertolini, has been around awhile although not as prolific as some in his profession. His last feature film script was in 1999, ‘The General's Daughter’, a little military based crime thriller starring John Travolta. He remains within the confines of the military point of view here providing the one original aspect of the story. Most invasion movies are from the vantage point of scientist fighting the alien menace or the military command directing the larger scope of strategy. The point of view used here is the infantry grunt, the ground troop doing the actual fighting and dying. In this instance the soldier in question is Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). In a much overused plot device he just submitted his papers to retire and they were approved. His immediate superior is 2ndLt. William Martinez (Ramón Rodríguez) who may have the rank over Natz but the ink on his training release hasn’t had enough time to dry. Part of the resentment steams from the lingering feelings of doubt and anger Nantz carries for losing his men in Iraq. Now he has put in his twenty and wants out but the appearance of space ships over the major cities of the world put a swift end to that prospect. The current mission is to go behind enemy lines in Santa Monica and rescue a group of civilians held up in a police station. The ticking clock is present due to a deadline of when the air Force is scheduled to commence saturation bombing of the area. Currently the aliens are occupying the area with only their ground forces temporarily without vital air support. This involvement of the Air Force permits the introduction of Air Force intelligence Technical Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez); adding a touch of relief from a testosterone heavy movie. The cast is rounded out by pretty much the same ethnic diversity and stereotypes that were common place in the old World War Two movies in some ways this film had the potential to modernize those movies if only it had fully committed to that course instead of trying too hard to emulate more recent popular action movies. This could have saved the flick to some extent by grounding it in a solid foundation and basing the story more on character development.

One thing that bothered me here is not particular to this flick but it is a glaring error that becomes worse each year. Science has shown there is plenty of water available in the cosmos that would not require the pest control necessitated by a few billion local inhabitants. Any culture sufficiently advanced to achieve inter-galactic travel would know this and be in a position to obtain it. Of course a technologically superior culture would have ships better designed than the ones here. They look like the pro master had a seizure in as bin spare parts. At least the cast looked like they were having fun with their roles. This does come across here but it was insufficient to carry the flick to any realistic measure of success. This yarn is driven by the situations but they are ultimately stale and predicable. This flick had a glimmer of potential but they were embers not proper fanned to ignition.

Posted 06/12/11

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