By Mike Richardson
There plenty of films out there based on existing video games but Battle: Los Angeles (or Battle LA if you haven’t got the time for full place names) plays out more like a film inspired by a video game yet to come into being.
The premise of Battle LA is that aliens have invaded earth (again) and they’re targeting coastal cities, including LA. Only a disparate group of US marines can save the civilians before the big alien air-strike hits. As with most “Alien Invasion” films best bit of the movie is the warm-up and in Battle LA the build-up is a nice slow burn, like Independence Day (1996), with unidentified flying objects causing a stir before the all-out violent attack. The film’s aliens seem to be conforming to stereotype as they have technology and weapons that far outstrip the plucky “marines” fighting back on behalf of the earth (like Independence Day) and for a long time the battle seems to be going in favour of the invaders (like Independence Day).
The fate of LA, and by extension the world, rests on the abilities of Marine Sergeant-with-issues Arron Eckhart and his courageous, and overtly racially diverse, marines (including Michelle Rodriguez, who is just as tough as her male counterparts) who also have issues. Mainly with Eckhart’s leadership. If you’ve already seen Independence Day you can probably work out if they’ll succeed before the first round is fired.
Battle LA isn’t, quite, Independence Day. It replaces Will Smith’s cocky flyboy and his thrilling aerial acrobatics with the ground level, worm’s eye view of evens that foot soldiers would face. And the in-your-face direction and camerawork is more JJ, Cloverfield (2008), Abrams than Roland Emmerich. But the film is just another alien invasion flick, where the devious aliens are whipped by the spirited men (and woman) from the good ol’ US of A.
The film had the potential to be an interesting small scale version of a global conflict (much the same way that M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs (2002) started out) but it seems the lure of huge explosions, and infinite ammo were too much for the gamers…sorry producers to resist. Battle LA relies too much on bang and gasp where character versus conflict would have been a much more satisfying clash.
The aliens also seem to have been watching Michael Bay’s Transformers films and have some nifty whirr and strcjkch moves of their own…as if that’s what cinema needed. The impressive effects and pyrotechnics of the film are, however, still dwarfed by the marketing campaign Columbia Pictures has bombarded us with. Has anyone seen a bus go by in the last two months without a spaceship emblazoned across it? Anything that requires that much noise to get your attention will ultimately have very little to back it up. In the nutshell that it was imagined in Battle LA is a 116 minute run n’ gun, shoot and scoot, boy’s own barrel of fun. And if you like that sort of thing, you’ll like this film, if not…