Battle: Los Angeles And It’s Betters
There are some films, for which the only possible way to describe them is by referencing other, better projects with similarities. Battle: Los Angeles is that film.
Even when I first heard about it at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, watched the trailer, listened to the panel speaking – I was thinking, “It’s like Black Hawk Down with aliens!” I suppose, in retrospect, even mentally packaging a movie in that manner means it’s probably not gonna be ground-breaking…or better than it’s predecessor.
But you know, I was really looking forward to some pulse-quickening urban combat with aliens on the big screen.
What greeted me was a 90 minute long Marine Corps advertisement and stilted dialogue. Some of the exchanges – in no part to the actors who for the most part believably sold their lines – were so damned awkward! After viewing we chuckled about the female lead, Bridget Moynahan declaring, “I’m a vet,” as they were dissecting an alien corpse. Of course she is. Or a nurse. Or a doctor.
It was totally out-of-place. As was the bizarre monologue foisted upon Aaron Eckhart in the last 1/3 of the movie. It completely sucked me out of the film and I sat there thinking, “this is such a shitty monologue.” But I watched Eckhart for a moment in this movie-limbo and decided he was so INTO his role, I could easily step back in. He knew the lines were crap, but he emoted them and basically made it so the words didn’t matter, but the emotion he imbued them with DID. That’s Grade A fucking talent right there.
Oh – and Marines NOT swearing. FUCK YOU PG-13!! I have friends and family who have spent time in the military or in vocations which primarily consist of other dudes talking shit and swearing. Ugh. UGH. For a movie that seemed to want so badly to come across as realistic, having Marines NOT swear so obviously was a bit repulsive.
THE SEXIST STUFF (OF COURSE)
Michelle Rodriguez was noticeably flat in this film, she has loads of personality and bad-assery in real life, but her character felt muted. Also disappointingly portrayed was the idea that any Marines in this situation would be irritated by another Marine joining them just because she’s in “Tech.” It basically gave them license to say, “we’re going to treat this lady soldier like she has no idea how to hold a gun, but not because she’s a woman – cause she’s in TECH!” Of course, she holds her own and proves she can kick ass during combat…but I get so impossibly tired of watching women have to prove themselves in these situations.
It wasn’t quite G.I. Jane, but it felt just similar enough to raise my eyebrows. Of course, I have a low threshold for sexist bullshit, so take from that what you will.
Just saying: women have been in the armed forces and serving their country for years now. Successfully leading troops in combat. Can we get the fuck over it already?
In my heart I was hoping it would be more like District 9. For me,”District 9″ is the ultimate Aliens on earth movie. If Aliens really landed here it would most likely always be an accident (Why the hell would they WANT to come to earth?) and they would be low on resources and everyone would resent the burden they created on the public. The aliens themselves had a personality that few other “alien on earth films” seem able to imbue. Another beef with “Battle:LA” was how boring and homogenous the aliens were. You are writing a script about FUCKING ALIENS. You have complete and total license to make them interesting. But by all means, outfit them in metal with stupid guns and no unique physical features. Boring.
“District 9” also had a brilliant political under-pining that did not (IMHO) preach the horrors of Apartheid but presented them in all their complexities.
Not to mention the incredibly human lead who actually achieves a believable heroic arch, some great weapons and special effects…overall it’s probably been one of my favorite science fiction films of the last few years.
And the accents – something about the Afrikaner accent gets me every time. It’s unintentionally comedic and brings nice levity to an emotionally intense film.
So, was Battle: Los Angeles any better than “Black Hawk Down” or “District 9?” Sadly, no.
And to wash the bad movie tropes down the drain, I went home and watched both.
And then a few other Aaron Eckhart flicks for good measure, cause he’s gorgeous and compelling on-screen. Man, that cleft in his chin…you could vanish within that cleft and never come back. Hmm…
I will give the film credit for presenting a diverse cast without spending too much time pontificating on its success at doing so (you know what I’m talking about). In that sense – there was a very realistic depiction of the Marine Corps because the armed forces tend to draw a lot of diversity. So it’s not as if they were rocking the boat, but the attention to detail is noted. Congrats.
Did find it a little strange that the two most prominent male hispanic cast members – Lieutenant Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) and…Michael Pena (one of the civilians, they were virtually nameless) both kicked the bucket. Along with a slew of other white dudes though, so you know…I guess that means some semblance of balance, right?
And I’m pretty sure at least two black Marines survived until the end of the film. That just MIGHT be some movie making history right there.
The war-chiseled Staff Seargant taking over for the inexperienced Lieutenant smacked of the first few episodes of Band of Brothers and also felt a little oogy given that the Lieutenant was hispanic and therefore could die heroically but not be our hero. Our hero is a white dude with blonde hair, blue eyes and a cleft in his chin. Like John-Fucking-Wayne. Cause it’s the American way!
Some of the Marines even reference him as doing some “John Wayne type shit.” Cause he does. Which is fun and sexy and uber-heroic. But it would have been a better film if Eckhart HADN’T needed to assume the mantle of hero so blatantly. It would have added a nice layer of complexity if he had ended up playing second fiddle, molding the noob into a combat leader, and either died at the end or retired as his character had originally intended.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last twenty years, you’ve watched a movie about war and aliens. Which means you’ve watched this movie before. And it was done better, with more humor, more character development, more chest-pounding American nationalism and delightful war-mongering, or with better social commentary.
Which isn’t to say there isn’t something interesting here. Aaron Eckhart does manage to pull a lot of small, brilliant moments out of the schlock and this film really is his vehicle. To stardom perhaps? He’s been successfully plugging away at smallish, independent films and in ensemble casts (brilliant as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, btw), so perhaps this film, which is not terrible but not great either, will give him that extra “leading man” spite-shine he needs to secure better roles.
REALLY THOUGH: You should watch this on the big-screen for the pretty explosions and sound editing. And then, go directly home and watch “Black Hawk Down” and “District 9.” And if you’re feeling especially patriotic, Independence Day. Bonus points if you think Aaron Eckhart and Bill Pullman look like they could be cousins.
Bechdel Test: Battle: Los Angeles features two female characters and DOES NOT PASS the women test, PASSES the men test and features more than two minority characters with names and interactions about non-white characters so it PASSES the race test.