Title: Battle: LA
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
I've always maintained that if you toss enough money at a project, it's hard to get a film on either end of the spectrum. You won't have the creative control to make a true gem, but a couple of decent actors and plenty of well designed effects can prevent even the biggest disaster from being as bad as it could have been. Battle: LA is a perfect example to prove my point. The flick starts with fifteen minutes of getting around as many of the characters as possible so that you can learn their faces so that when one dies you remember who he was and why you should care. Doesn't matter really, you probably wont. Soon they go off to fight the aliens that look like a mechanized bastard child of ET and an overgrown stick insect with the job of rescuing some civilians too stupid to run when they were told to. They find them after shooting in the vague direction of the enemy, which is pretty much every direction, and then the lieutenant makes a dumb decision which got half his men killed before too dying in that predictable 'blaze of glory' manner, which was a little bizarre as I don't actually recall him ever getting shot, and certainly we don't actually see his injury in the close ups. Not that I'm really complaining. The moron didn't have a clue anyway.
The staff sergeant ends up resuming command and tells them to leg it to a forward base only to arrive and discover they all died. Here he decides to have bromance with a guy whose brother died under his command on his last tour, which once again is pretty much limited to “you don't know where I been man, you don't know!” which naturally means, we don't know either. There's a couple of scenes of kids looking scared and crying, and by this point I'm hoping the little brats get shot so we can be done with it already, and then they all fly off before jumping off the heli so they can take down a 'command centre' controlling the drones in the air. Turns out it's underground and the monstrosity must have been constructed during the invasion because the land around it is still perfectly intact, at least until it takes off. Which is a little strange. If you had an important military asset that was inherently mobile, wouldn't you kinda move it so the enemy didn't know where it was? Or at the least, not leave it slap bang in the middle of the city you're invading. But that's speculation; they destroy it and are temporarily heroes. Most of the world is still fucked, they have no connections outside of the city, the military in LA is still decimated and a vastly more powerful alien force is still invading, but fuck it, seems like a convenient enough place to end.
The first footage of the invasion we see looks like it was shot by an iPhone. Worse, in fact. Anyone remember those games like C&C in the mid-90s that used VGA video debriefing? In fact, here, this kind of thing (Note: I'm not referring to the computer graphics but the TV shows in between). Now imagine they can't hold the camera still. Fortunately the effects do get better after this; lots of stuff burning for no reason and lots of pyrotechnics are on display, and occasionally we get a half decent look at the dodgy aliens, usually through a dirty rifle lens, and at one point, we even get a nice dissection which looks like it came from some sort of B-Movie where they simply shoved various balloons of coloured goo into a box and told the actors to poke it with a stick. I must confess however, the sets themselves are possibly the only element I have no argument against. They were done surprisingly well. My guess is someone pointed out that some of the budget should be used elsewhere, and not on items that weren't whores or beer, so they hired a guy to take a case of beer and plant a lot of explosives around the set to be detonated at random times. You ever see a machine gun make a bridge explode? How about a guy who gets shot in the head, goes “ow,” rubs it a little bit, and then spontaneously loses his sight and needs to be helped around? Yes this film has it all, and pieces it all together with editing that means injuries appear from nowhere and characters mysteriously die without you even noticing.
The music was some of the most generic melodramatic drivel I can recall and the acting was non existent. The fact that nothing made any sense made it all the more difficult for the actors to actually act; when the entire cast list was made up of various red-shirt wearing Ensigns from Star Trek; where their only purpose was to run around like a headless chicken and then die, well it doesn't really give them an awful lot to work with. It isn't exactly helped by the fact that 90% of the dialogue is four cliché riddled words or less, with a couple of cheesy speeches tossed in for good measure. Even calling this “Science Fiction” sounds a little dirty as it implies that some scientific thought went intro the proceedings when creating aliens with a dozen or so organs that serve no purpose in their body, invade by landing in all the major cities which all happen to be in the US, except for some bizarre reason Ireland - because that's clearly where one of the world's biggest threats are – all for absolutely no reason other than because we have water in liquid form and they're technologically advanced but haven't yet learnt about solids, liquids and gasses yet. This only gets worse when the term 'fiction' is added, as it gives off the impression that somewhere, at some point, something resembling a story might actually emerge. Spoiler alert: It doesn't.
And yet despite all this negativity, this is not the worst film I've seen. People claiming it to be that bad clearly haven't seen some of the genuine drivel that's produced, but the strangest thing about it is how much it wants to be. Everything from the effects and shaking cameras right down to the cliché dialogue; the badly designed and conveniently poorly visible aliens to the editing which can never decide what time of the day it really is; the cheesy music and the cheesier plot, everything screams like it's desperately trying to be that low budget SyFy flick, or that 80s B-Movie made by a teenager in his back yard. They spent $100 million trying to make the worst film they possibly could, and they couldn't even get that right.