Saved by Genre Savvyness.
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.