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Friday, March 25, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Flight of the Valkyries wants its iconic images back.

I'm a film nerd from way back. I've been posting on IMDb's Oscar Buzz forum since 2004, and because of that, I've come to do an annual awards show every year, early on, at some point after the Oscars. (note - 2010's show is up and coming) In those awards, I have a category designated for the worst films of the year. I called it "The Flaming Bag of Sh*t". I thought it couldn't get any worse than Sanctum so early in the season, but... well, it did. And just as I have a couple of Best Picture contenders in The Company Men and The Adjustment Bureau, I have a flaming bag of sh*t in Battle: Los Angeles - certainly the loudest movie of the year so far, and no doubt quite possibly the worst of its kind. 

I sat closer to the edge of my seat during Martian Child. 

More after the cut --

I saw a midnight showing with my roommate and his girlfriend. Usually, I live for these late night outings. I rarely ever fall asleep during a film. And despite how loud and flashy this one was, it was a struggle to contain my yawns. I haven't yet figured out if it was because I was tired (even though I had a cup of delicious coffee before heading out just to make sure I was on my toes) or because I was bored to hysterical blindness. But, whatever it was, I found myself hoping I was asleep and having some sort of weird meta dream where the movie was terrible, but hadn't actually started yet in real life. I wasn't asleep, the movie wasn't even half over, and I wanted to leave. 

But, had I left, my opinion wouldn't be valid and I wouldn't be able to stand on any sort of leg when I talk about it. So, I suffered through two hours of Dollar Tree aliens and Aaron Eckhart's constant sweat to tell you  all this.

It's more Saving Private Ryan than Independence Day, which should have been my clue from the beginning. I'm not a Private Ryan fan, but that is neither here nor there. The entire project is more of a war film than an alien invasion film, and that could have worked except that the entire premise is that a marine unit is fending off an alien invasion. I will give Battle: LA this, however - the bond between the soldiers was beautifully realized. The performances among the lesser crew are sharp and as fleshed out as the material allows, but it's the leads who seem to be phoning it in. Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Roderiguez are actors that I respect and admire. It's rare that I'm disappointed by anything they do, but with this project it felt like they were simply either uninterested and there for the paycheck, or that they weren't in on the joke, and were therefore making everything to deadly serious for my disbelief to be suspended. 

What the trailer and initial promos for this film promises were a hell of a lot different than what they delivered. The basic flow of the film was the same, but as everything unfolded within it, it got too cluttered and couldn't hold its, or my, focus. I can of course blame the choppy editing and the bombastic score, and I could also blame the director, Jonathan Liebesman. I should have expected this to be a lesser viewing experience given his track record with Darkness Falls, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and The Killing Room. But, I held out hope, and I don't even blame him for the unfortunate final cut. I blame the screenplay, given an apparent home birth by Christopher Bertolini. If you catch the name, this is the guy responsible for The General's Daughter. And, if you know me... I hate that movie. 

I don't really know what I else I can say about the film without repeating myself too much. So, all I can tell you is this - bad leading performances, horrendous and overdone special effects, laughable screenplay, and soda-flat direction. I can't recommend this to anyone, not even serious fans of the genre.