Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
116 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C -
With all the apocalyptic 2012 hoopla, Olympic Boulevard being colonized and demolished by extraterrestrials isn't so unconvincing nowadays. "Battle: Los Angeles" asks "what if?" California, we have a problem, as the city becomes threatened by an arrival. Meteors? Think again. They're lifeforms from another mother planet, and they want our water supply to wash down their Reese's Pieces.
This sci-fi/disaster/war movie Frankenstein patchwork is derivative of "Independence Day," "War of the Worlds," "Cloverfield," "Black Hawn Down," and "Jarhead" with a heavy dose of hooh-rah! patriotism.
Aaron Eckhart, who has been through this thing before ("The Core"), is the movie's granite-jawed rock as Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz who's had some men die under his command and is now ready to retire (cliché #1), until the attacks off the L.A. coast have him returning for one more tour of duty. He's the only human character that seems to struggle with an inner conflict. (One soldier is established as having Post-traumatic stress disorder and seeing a psychiatrist, but then that issue is thrown away.) The marine characters are introduced with their name flashing on the screen and economically sketched for about a minute. Then everyone blurs into one interchangeable type, so why should we care about underdeveloped characters put in harm's way?
Worse, the straight-faced cast's dialogue when uttered comes off cheesy from the copy-and-paste script. Michelle Rodriguez shows up as a tech sergeant who can load ammo and shoot a gun as best as the dudes (cliché #36); Bridget Moynahan and Michael Pena pop up as civilians.
"Battle: Los Angeles" is more tolerable mainstream fare than some Hasbro toy franchise we shall not name, but so completely disposable. Can't Hollywood make a well-done action picture anymore?
For about the first half hour, it's entertaining but becomes such relentlessly nonstop chaos that it becomes as mind-numbing as a one-man-shooter video game. There's no ebb and flow amidst the flowing of debris, pyrotechnics, and destruction. The robotic aliens are "Transformers" and "District 9" clones, and not very daunting or impressive-looking. Within the entire movie, there is exactly one moment that springs to mind from its crafting of tension involving an alien shadow in a laundry room.
Director Jonathan Liebesman ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning") is a more than competent action filmmaker, working on a grand scale, and his kinetic, shake-it-if-you-got-it handheld camera work is more visceral and compelling than the slick garbage by Michael Bay, but big whoop.
"Battle: Los Angeles" is a junky lock-and-load void, where the trailer had more of an emotional power than anything in the movie itself.