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Battle: Los Angeles

a film by Jonathon Liebesman

By the time we finally get to the supposedly stirring speech Aaron Eckhart delivers just prior to the final showdown between his US Marines and the unknown alien invaders - a speech spewed forth in a syrupy insipid treacle, written with what must have been a knowing satiric wink (but probably was not) and just dripping with cloying cliche and crocodile tears - anyone with even one-eighth of a brain in their head has already checked out of this movie and are now counting the barely visible ceiling tiles above that same said head of theirs. Evidently though, I must have less than that aforementioned one-eighth of a brain, because I kept on watching to the bitter, ridiculous, overblown ending.

You would think a movie that so apparently prides itself on being some sort of unique mélange of everything from War of the Worlds to Independence Day to Starship Troopers to Cloverfield would at least learn a thing or two from these (not great but) well crafted sci-fi precursors. Instead we get a tired, rather lackluster, shaky-cam mess of a movie that is trying vainly to be much better than it has any damned right to be. The first rule of this fight club (re: invasion/disaster/war movies) is to stack the proverbial deck with a mish-mash of characters, all or most with interesting backstories, so when the battle/disaster/war happens we are worried about who is going to make it out alive. Here, we get about a dozen main characters with at least eleven of them as interchangeable drones that no one would ever care about whether they live or die (or even just vanish from the picture altogether) and therefore know how many ceiling tiles there are in their theater.

I suppose, not to rag on the movie too much (sharpening one's critical claws is not necessarily what it is all about - though it is quite fun at times), there are some more than interesting moments. Granted, these are, as they say, few and far between, but they are here nonetheless. Overall though, from its text book beginnings (oh no, Eckhart's aging sergeant is having doubts when he is overtaken during a run on the beach by his much younger and much fitter fellow marines! Oh no, the newly minted Lieutenant has a pregnant wife at home and the newbie recruit is still a virgin - hope they don't die!) to its "man-up soldiers!" finale (not to mention the sudden appearance of Michelle Rodriguez in yet another of her unending series of "tough bitch" characters - perhaps someone should tell her it is alright for an actor to stretch a little now and then), Battle: Los Angeles never gets far enough off the ground to even be considered in the same group as those aforementioned sci-fi precursors it so proudly hails from. Hell, it is an alien invasion that is taking place in L.A. (though it is simultaneously happening world wide) and not even a single shot of the Hollywood sign being blown to bits. That sir, is just laziness, plain and simple. [03/18/11]

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