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Battle Los Angeles back to reviews
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I usually disagree with critics and often give movies slammed by them at least the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, I went into Battle LA expecting the usual action-movie tripe masquerading as science-fiction, and was pleasantly surprised. The trailers showed a certain level of, if not originality, than at least a little bit of common-sense in film making, like the movie would at least try not to insult my intelligence.

Shockingly, the movie turned out to be rather well-made. The Marines are all walking cliches like the main page says, but their backstories take an abrupt turn for the unimportant when the action starts. This is what a war movie should be; following people into war as an observer (invisible though we may be as the viewer) shouldn't lead one to expect a plethora of backstory. It should lead one to expect a functioning fighting unit, and true to this, their attitudes shift towards getting their jobs done. Likewise, the Heroic BSOD is rare in this film, each one underscored by subtlety instead of Narm. They're scenes we would believe in a standard war film without the aliens to encourage absurd distress.

The alien designs are a mixed bag. Their tech is suitably bizarre but the actual aliens are somewhat bland. This works well during the combat scenes when their basic bipedal design gives us enough to recognize their body language, but they seem much less impressive when we get close-ups.

The aliens as entities, however, are done brilliantly. Much of this movie's effectiveness is carried in the very small details, like the way the aliens communicate with hand signals and drag their wounded behind cover, things that don't even happen more times than you can count on your hands. Little touches like this, as well as on the human side (the lack of Hollywood Tactics, the way the civilians are definitely not The Load as we would expect, averting typical action movie cliches like Black Dude Dies First) go a long way to legitimizing the film as a war movie.

It's not very original, but it also does its tropes right. Don't see it if you're in the mood for a popcorn-munching action movie, but see it if you've gone through Saving Private Ryan, Generation Kill, Band Of Brothers, The Pacific and The Hurt Locker and need some new military drama to chew through.
I would actually recommend it the other way around: If you like good war movies like the ones you mentioned, DO NOT WATCH THIS. But if you're looking to unwind after a long day, this movie would go pretty well with a beer and some popcorn. It's full of cliches and the story itself has nothing we haven't seen before, but hey, it has lots of Stuff Blowing Up and some good Spectacle, so what the hell.

The only originality lies in the details, like the way some of the action sequences are filmed. Props to the military advisors and CGI guys. Unfortunately that got mixed up with some of the shabbiest camera work I've ever seen. They could've made that work if they'd only gone with a realistic sound background with limited music (a tactic which was used to great effect by every single film and TV series you mentioned, especially Generation Kill, where there's no music at all) but these guys instead went with an over-the-top, unnecessarily loud, incessant musical score that clashes horribly with the camera work and left me with a throbbing headache.

Throughout the time the film seemed to struggle whether to be a Spectacle Action Film, or a gritty War Drama. Would've turned out much better if they'd just decided on it one way or the other. It's a good effort, though, and definitely a good start. I'd be interested in a sequel.
comment #7715 Darkmane 18th May 11
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