Ah, Battle: Los Angeles. First big Summer blockbuster of 2011. Ohyeeaah. You can almost smell the adrenaline and burly beefcake sweat. Battle. Los. Angeles. Savour those words as once I savoured them, gazing up at spangly bus adverts in anticipation of rowdy alien-based carnage. Sky high were my hopes before they were soundly dashed by my more cynical comrades. It was then sold to me as terrible, with some of the worst dialogue this side of Cellular (‘you named your son Ricky Martin?’) but with enough shiny effects and monsters to ignore this. It sold itself as a bigger, badder Independence Day with more aliens! More spaceships! More explosions! More badass U.S Army guys cracking wise! Hooray!
Sadly though, not too many wisecracks to be had. In fact, none if we want to be pedantic – which we do. The story was set up nicely enough, spelled out in large flashing letters that branded themselves on the mind so even the simplest of movie goers could fathom out what was going to happen. Disaster movie conventions were there in their droves. Meteors landing on the coast? Aliens. Writing a letter to your wife? Prepare to die.
The friendship between the assembled marines should have been touching in a big ol’ man way but their gratingly obvious relationships and passable banter resulted in the odd cringe and mental bets with myself on who deserved to explode first. (All of them…?) The dialogue was relentlessly awful, any attempts at wit drowned spluttering under shamelessly patriotic bluster. Serious moments were on occasion guffawingly funny, lines delivered with such cloying sincerity the audience couldn’t help but cackle.
The finest moment in this swollen bastard of a Turkey was what was meant to be a sentimental scene, of a child watching his brave yet fatally inept father die. Following this, his tears are dried by then-redeemed squad patriarch Aaron Eckhart. There are no words to describe how creepy this chain of events is. None. The stilted hug and ‘I’m your daddy now’ action borders on too much, a Freudian farce acted out with a battered G.I Joe and Mighty Max. Instantly, former lame dad is forgotten, replaced by the sticky bulges of fresh new army dad. Ah, the American dream. I could go on down this road but we would be here for days. Just imagine the rest. Soak it up. Mmmm.
The great thing about action movies is their sense of humour. I adore the Die Hard films and their ilk. Big dumb sci-fi is a guilty pleasure of many, unless you’re too smug to admit it. (Go on..) Independence Day was great because among the threats of the mostly unseen aggressors there was a genuine heart to the movie. Cheesy in places, yes, very, but you can’t deny caring about Jeff Goldblum and co as they set out to save the world. Battle: Los Angeles is cursed with staggering sincerity. The heroes are a tad too heroic – on being offered a nice cooked breakfast after saving the world they earnestly refuse and load up their guns for more action. The fools. The line, ‘I kick ass for breakfast’ was, alas, absent – but then that would have added a sense of fun to things which simply wouldn’t fly when there are stern messages to be given about U.S Army badass-ery.
Women are given a pretty raw deal too, if you want to climb aboard your soapbox. Michelle Rodriquez is the only female character who gets her hands dirty with alien busting proceedings, but this is met with comments from the other marines that are pretty goshdarn sexist if you’re still listening to them at this point. The only attempt at comedy is a joke about coming on her face. Classy stuff there. The other woman serves as a long-suffering foil to Eckhart’s grumpiness, also serving her purpose as a veterinary nurse with an inexplicable working knowledge of alien anatomy and of course a mother figure to the aforementioned screeching child who pops up every now and again to miraculously cheat death and trade dads.
If we must distance ourselves from the foul(or should we say ‘fowl…?’ Ho ho…) dialogue and piss-poor characterisation guess the film deserves some grudging praise for the design of the spacecraft and the ‘drone’ idea of unmanned, small ships controlled by a central post. The aliens themselves were, for my liking anyway, too human-like with the exception of the tentacled leaders who were almost menacing. Almost. The action was just tense enough to stop the mind from wandering, and the scenes of destruction just harsh enough to be decent eye-candy. To be fair, an hour of aliens roaming around blowing stuff up would have made for a vastly better movie. Do away with the terrible dialogue and obvious narrative and it might have been OK, but as is, Battle: Los Angeles is a bloated monstrosity of a film, inadvertently funny in its lack of humour. A Turkey of the highest order.
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