Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Battle: L.A." was close to making me mad...but not quite

Anyone who reads this blog has known I have been stoked for this movie to come out.  I was itching to go see it all weekend, but it never happened.  I started to hear a few reviews on it and many of them were not positive.  I was absolutely determined to go into my viewing with an open mind and a want to see this movie still.  Well I got the opportunity last night.  I do have to say that many of the reviews are correct, but I still don't agree with them.  Yes this movie is flawed, but it in no way is the end of cinema as some reviewers would have you believe.

"Battle: L.A." is one of those movies that appeals most to men and boys.  I'm not saying that women can't enjoy this film, it is just really geared towards the testosterone laden crew who can play Modern Warfare for hours on end.  As a matter of fact, it often times reminded me of an FPS.  The camera work in this movie rivals any other hand-held shot film as to the who-can-shake-the-camera-more-to-make-it-more-realistic take on cinema.  Many people think that "Cloverfield" was the worst at this approach.  I would throw this movie into the ring any day of the week.  My second biggest gripe with this movie is the camera work.  I know I'm starting with number two.  It just flowed this way better.  I normally don't have too much of an issue with the shaky-cam like many people do as long as it is still conveying an accurate picture about what is going on.  Many times this effect is used in this film to cover up inadequacies.  There are a number of times where they are running from the aliens and getting to cover.  During that run you have no idea where anyone is, WHO anyone is, and no sense that they have any idea about what they are doing.  For a group of supposedly trained marines they sure don't seem to have any sense of order under fire.  This does get better as the movie progresses.  What doesn't get better is the aversion to showing the actual alien beings.  I'm not asking for any direct shots, but give us at least some semblance about what they look like.  They are constantly in a blur or quick-panned over.  The only time we get a sense of a look is when they are hacking one to pieces trying to figure out how to kill it.  Normally I would applaud this approach.  I like to figure things out for myself.  The only issue is that when you to catch a fleeting glimpse the CGI is SO bad that you see why they keep them hidden.  I got the impression that not only where the humans unable to explain the aliens, but everyone in charge of this film also had no idea what they looked like.  Oh sure they had a vision, but that never really translated on screen.  In large numbers, the aliens had absolutely no difference between them.  Just like in a bad FPS.

My first gripe is with the script.  Man alive did they pull from the cliche bucket on this one.  It's like they were at a party and had everyone write down silly military movie cliches.  Then they had everyone put down alien invasion cliches.  Then they just left the party and read all the papers and wrote a script around that.  I mean seriously in ONE unit you have enough ethnic diversity to choke a horse, you have the guy who is getting married soon, you have the guy who is really close to retirement, you have the virgin, and you have the new leader who is selfish and takes two cliches for himself, he also has a kid on the way.  Throw in the civilians which include a hero dad, a vet, and three kids and you have yourself just about every cliche.  The dialogue is no better.  I heard literally every marine phrase I have heard uttered in Modern Warfare.  As a matter of fact, I think it was better written in Modern Warfare.  I think I actually laughed out loud at some of the dialogue.  It even has the swelling patriotic music behind all the really emotional monologues!!

Here is the kicker though: They never shy away from it.  Every single person embraces this craziness and commits to it with zest.  Aaron Eckhart chews threw all of his dialogue with gruff and gusto.  You almost expect him to give the camera a wink after an exceptionally painful passage of dialogue.  It is because of this that the rest lightens itself up a little.  I can forgive much in a film if everyone in it gets what they are doing.  I don't think anyone really feels like they are making a serious picture.  Everyone is having fun with their stereotypes.  The action is brisk and almost non-stop, which is good because the dialogue is so bad you beg for more shaky action.  It is a crazy ass ride that dangles something shiny in your face to distract you from the fact that it really isn't that great of a film.

Well I am not afraid to say that I got sucked in by that shiny object.  It wasn't until after the movie when I started thinking about it in depth so I could write this review that I got to thinking about how bad it was.  It was a good distraction.  And that is all I am going to think of it.  It was a great mindless action film.  Will I see it again?  Probably not.  But I sure had fun the first time.

6 out 10 stars

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