Battle LA: Eckhart Was the Ssgt. This Platoon Needed, But Not The One It Deserved
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Just got home from watching “Battle: Los Angeles” tonight, and I’ve got to say, I thought it was a pretty damn entertaining movie. It wasn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for a good war movie (yes, that’s how I’ll categorize it), definitely check this one out. For the skeptics, check it out matinée.
For those who aren’t familiar, “Battle: LA” is about a small Marine platoon that receives orders to find and evacuate a group of civilians amidst a very sudden and very devastating alien invasion. Those expecting a crazy sci-fi movie a la “District 9” should be prepared for a totally different kind of film. Where District 9 was a great science fiction movie with its main focus following Wikus’s forced transformation into an alien and evasion of the government, “Battle: LA” is a more of a traditional war movie that just so happens to involve aliens as the enemy instead of the usual Russians or Middle-Easterners.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
“Battle: LA” is just what the title implies: a constantly shifting firefight that stretches throughout Los Angeles, California. Though several other key cities are mentioned and even shown under attack, the narrative involves only a small Marine platoon struggling to stay alive. The film is pretty much concerned with just the individuals involved in the squad and the civilians they’re trying to save. The platoon is led by brand new 2nd Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) and damaged goods Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart, who I reserve the right to refer to as Harvey Dent). SSgt. Nantz struggles to gain the trust of his new platoon since stories have circulated that he left four men to die in his last mission, including the brother of a soldier in his new platoon. Several conflicts arise from this relationship between the SSgt and his soldiers because of this.
The platoon involved is given a simple order: locate and evacuate a group of civilians taking refuge in an abandoned police department building amidst the conflict and get them past the line of defense before the area is bombed in 3 hours. To do this, the platoon must struggle to keep themselves alive while they seem to be surrounded by crazy weird bionic-robot things that sound a whole lot like the Decepticons from Transformers and look too similar to Alpha 5 from the Power Rangers to take seriously. Some of the aliens look a bit cooler than others, but I felt the aliens lost a lot of their appeal once you finally get a good look at them. Remember how in “Signs” the aliens were terrifying until you see them? These weren’t nearly as frightening, but the same principal stands.
The combat was pretty entertaining; plenty explosions and “hoo-rahs” are to be found, and there was decent enough character development for you to actually give a shit about emotionally investing in them. My flack with the movie, if anything, really, is the fact that this squad manages to keep pushing through flanks of technologically advanced Alpha-robots that realistically should have killed them all in the first 30 minutes. Somehow, despite walking past dozens of fallen tanks and hundreds of fallen soldiers, this group was able to figure out how to kill and outsmart the aliens, and turn the tide of the war in humanity’s favor. I don’t want to give the impression that it was an easy fight; a lot of the main characters in the beginning aren’t the main characters at the end of the movie, if you get what I mean. It all seemed a bit farfetched, but it’s not unlike any video game you’ve ever played. Look at any shooter you’ve ever played: It’s usually you killing off a whole army single-handedly, but no one seems to complain there.
While I’m on the topic of death, I’ve got to say, another problem I had with the movie was its lack of consistency regarding death in the movie. It seemed like shoulders were shrugged whenever a soldier was mugged (see what I did there?) but the whole movie stopped when a civilian died much after getting shot in battle (SPOILER ALERT). My problem with it, is that even though they expected said civilian to die because he was just shot in the chest, everyone was taken aback and melancholy when he actually died, especially Harvey Dent. When soldiers would get blown to smithereens (SPOILER ALERT) the characters seemed to grieve him for a minute, if that. Besides that, Harvey Dent was pretty impressive in the rest of the film, and definitely kept you involved in a lot of emotional scenes thanks to his superb performances.
One of the most memorable scenes of the movie for me was actually one of the very first scenes of the film. The squad has just gotten news that what they’re fighting they may not be prepared for, and are definitely non-human. The squad is then shoved into a helicopter that takes them to their drop-off point, and you can see the worry in each soldier’s face. They’re all preparing for death in each of their own ways, one soldier reads a bible, one writes a letter to his wife back home, and one stuffs his dog-tag into the tongue of his boot so he can still be identified in case he’s decapitated. Pretty heavy introduction to the film if you ask me. If you’re the type to shy away from emotion and character development, then you might want to steer clear, as each of the soldiers tend to be struggling with their own doubts and personalities throughout the film.
Not all the characters have equal levels of development, especially Michelle Rodriguez’s character. God dammit, why is Michelle Rodriguez still acting? I can’t stand her and her butch one-liners. When she comes in midway into the movie, I literally groaned as one her first lines was “With all due respect sir, I didn’t get to where I am with my just good looks,” like she was trying to convince herself that she doesn’t look like a man. Oh man, I thought that was the end of my good experience with the movie. I was just waiting for one of her signature “I live for this shit” lines like she has in every other movie of hers. Luckily though, she didn’t have a ton of lines , and you can’t imagine how grateful I was for that.
Overall, I’d say “Battle: LA” was a good movie if you know what you’re walking into: a war movie with decent character development, and a pretty interesting angle on the alien-invasion genre, along with some good action. “Independence Day“, this is not. The story’s not fantastic, but how great do you expect your stories to be in action movies in the first place? Lots of things explode, and lots of things explode over the course of 116 minutes, and a whole lot of great stuff from Harvey Dent. So check it out if you’re looking for an entertaining and visually impressive film, especially if you want to find out what an army of Alpha 5’s would be like without the noble guidance of Zordon.
Final verdict: 3.5 / 5