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Review: Battle Los Angeles


Battle: Los Angeles is like Saving Private Ryan meets Black Hawk Down meets Aliens, with excellent CGI.

Reviewed by Philip Magnussen

I’m proud to be an American after watching this fil…. Oh wait, that’s right, I’m a Kiwi – so there are some non-American’s in this world.  Ah but never fear, just when you thought it wasn’t safe to wave a foreign flag, wear Arabic headgear, or vote for the International Criminal Court, America is here to save the world again.

Now before you go “Oh God, here comes another rant about a stupid Hollywood blockbuster filled with clichés”, I’m going to stick my neck out and say I loved sitting through this movie.

That’s right – despite its many failings, I’m suggesting you go along and enjoy a rollicking assault on the senses. Just make sure you park your brain in neutral first.

Battle: Los Angeles(BLA) boils down very easily to this: Saving Private Ryan meets Black Hawk Down meets Aliens. While director Jonathan Liebesman may have wanted to explore “Shock and Awe” from the other end of the cruise missile, a social commentary this is not.  The original War of the Worlds novel was a brilliant critique of the empire building of the then-greatest nation on the earth, but BLA simply gives the US military the wonderful opportunity of fighting in the defence of the entire world against an enemy everyone can agree is evil.

Putting that and the gung-ho end aside, the biggest problem with this movie is that while it does a great job of focusing on the small scale unit experience, they throw in a stupid raison d’être for the invasion.  Sigh.  There was absolutely no reason to give any reason for the invasion.  We all understood what was happening… without a stupid talking head explanation.

Yes, there are all the general cliché cardboard characters, but I didn’t mind that so much.  Let’s face it, drama is required to make a film entertaining, not explosions and CGI. So without having a real story to tell, the film simply takes stock characters and puts them into a stock situation with some stock lines. They fortunately manage to (just) avoid the classic shot-a-monster-then-walk-over-to-look-down-the-rabbit-hole- -fell-into-it experience.

The design of the aliens are functional if not exciting.  The ships, while reminiscent of District 9, are reasonable and practical, while the aliens themselves are limited by having to behave like a familiar army with soldiers, generals, etc, so they are faceless, humanoid, and vaguely Giger-esk without the individual menace. With a decent budget (US$70mil), this is way better than the Strause brothers’ comic book Skyline. The CGI is excellent, apart from perhaps some of the alien animation, and thank your maker that Liebesman fought successfully to not make this in 3D.

See it, enjoy it, then return to the real world as you leave the cinema and enjoy the adrenaline rush.