Review: 'Battle: Los Angeles' Is A Cynical, Soulless, Noisy Video Game Of A Movie

by Gabe Toro
March 10, 2011 2:28 AM
37 Comments
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Film is dead.

If we allow “Battle: Los Angeles” to survive beyond Monday, when its box office receipts will give the film the illusion of meaning, then we can say goodbye to the art form. If people find something worth saluting in this cynical, soulless, pointless waste of celluloid, then appreciation of the craft has dwindled to a point that would make Pauline Kael turn over in her grave, that would make Godard defecate stones, that would make Eisenstein commit seppuku. It is a film of no value, or no politics, seemingly churned out by a Hollywood machine dedicated to providing audiences with the dullest, least-offensive version of what people perceive as entertainment today: the disposable, empty wasteland where the morally bankrupt create junk that flatters the ignorant and alienates the informed.


To tell you the plot of “Battle: Los Angeles” -- aliens land and we fight them -- is merely describing a Moebius strip of hopelessness. To discuss the characters, who are indistinguishable action figures, is similarly redundant, each one of them a mouthpiece for dialogue spotlighting almost every military cliché you could think of. Aaron Eckhart is one of them, and he has a speech designed to make every jarhead in the audience instantly shout “hoo-rah.” Because “Battle: Los Angeles” may be the most expensive, dumbest, military commercial ever made.

Early on, the bits and pieces of aliens crash-landing worldwide as the characters play out TV-quality melodramas carry that fizzy is-this-real charge of tricky YouTube videos. As mundane as they are, people’s lives keep going on as crisis strikes the West Coast, as we watch a group of central casting grunts try to get laid, while square-jawed Eckhart repents for That One Mission That Went Bad. It is a PG-13 studio film, so the square, family-friendly banter the soldiers use to lighten the mood immediately rings false, despite the camerawork trying to suggest the exact opposite. Meanwhile, that fake gravity is contrasted by the Movie Hero Gloominess of tortured Eckhart, who is, of course, days away from retirement. How fresh.

What supposedly keeps “Battle: Los Angeles” different from the other alien invasion movies you’ve seen is that it deals with trench warfare, opting for the “realism” should such a situation arise. “Battle: Los Angeles” advertises itself immediately as anti-imagination, its filmmakers (most of whom have likely never been in battle) co-opting imagery and sensationalism from battlefield footage and adding nothing to this motif except punishing monotony. The alien designs, never properly observed, are faceless (natch) and comprised of angular and curved features nearly reptilian in nature. Once we find that their body composition as such is similar to humans, the disappointing convenience only leads to the assumption that yes, it would be wise to keep engaging in firefights with the enemy.

The last genuinely semi-interesting plot development occurs when we meet up with civilian survivor Michael Pena. Pena, a capable actor so good in films like “The Lucky Ones” and “World Trade Center,” has a resume that suggests he shouldn’t be used as a chess piece like the rest of this cast, each of which has a narrative function sans voice. Curious that a film with a culturally-diverse group of actors like this would also bend over backwards and incapacitate Pena with a wound early, the better to group the two best looking white cast members (Mr. Eckhart and Bridget Moynihan, the latter playing Mouth-Agape Babe).

That, of course, may seem like a semi-spoiler until you realize the disposable nature of this exercise in cynical blockbuster filmmaking. “Battle: Los Angeles” is the latest in a long line of tent pole releases (“Tron: Legacy” comes to mind) that rely on unusual visuals which run their course after the half hour mark. At this point, “Battle: Los Angeles” need only undermine the “real world” aesthetic with a bombastic action film score that has none of the gravitas of the ominous low-key droning of those memorable trailers which lodged themselves in audiences' heads over the last few months. It’s this distancing that helps “Battle: Los Angeles” resemble the experience of watching someone you’ve never met play a particularly noisy video game. In this instance, however, it’s too late before you realize the game is a five minute in-store demo with no beginning, no middle and no end. [F]

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More: Films, Review, Battle: Los Angeles

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37 Comments

  • Robsa | May 31, 2011 4:44 AMReply

    Not the deepest, or most imaginitive film ever created. However, I found it thoroughly entertaining!
    Looks like this reviewer had a thoroughly bad day before watching/reviewing this movie...

  • Ivex | May 11, 2011 10:48 AMReply

    What a hell people...all of you sounds like a spoiled baby girl that want "cool" movies. Battle Los Angeles isnt a bad movie, and the game is loyal to the movie, what did you expect?? Battle: Los Angeles black ops?

  • burd | April 11, 2011 4:52 AMReply

    noob

  • Untion | April 3, 2011 4:16 AMReply

    Hahaha! What a crappy movie it's unbelievable. Again, World's policeman US, can destroy anything they want to. Shitty little soldiers with their inferior guns destroyed far superior enemy with almost no effort. Who in the hell made this POS movie?!! This looks like one of those cheap Marine Corps invitations for innocent and naive US youth. I am sure COD players will enjoy this movie... but only because they are as equally stupid as this movie... if not even stupider :)))

  • watchit | March 14, 2011 11:32 AMReply

    i hate critics!!

  • vthokie | March 14, 2011 4:46 AMReply

    My wife and I saw this movie on Saturday night and we walked out with 30min to go. I can't remember the last time I walked out of a movie. BF-LA was worse than rotting alien flesh!!!

  • John Doe | March 14, 2011 4:44 AMReply

    Wow. Just enjoy the movie for what it is, lots of action and explosions. You don't need intelligence to enjoy bullets flying around. If you expected a movie based on politics, you're quite the boring motherfucker.

  • T.C. | March 14, 2011 2:58 AMReply

    Wtf the movie was awsome

  • leon | March 13, 2011 11:36 AMReply

    fuck me for having seen this giant pile of turd

  • john | March 13, 2011 11:18 AMReply

    3 words sum up this movie perfectly: piece of shit.

  • lfhSJ | March 13, 2011 8:51 AMReply

    I feel like I have brain damage after seeing this horrificly terrible military informercial. Ebert is right. If you like this movie, it's confirmed - you are stupid.

  • us114 | March 13, 2011 8:46 AMReply

    the brain can tolerate only so much stupidity...
    half way through the movie my brain said "fuck this shit" and I walked out

  • ASFan | March 11, 2011 3:58 AMReply

    Oh God, no one would be able to sit through a shaky cam 3D movie.

  • mark | March 10, 2011 11:24 AMReply

    Ok fine – but there is one thing that I have learnt from reviews such as this and that is to not let it cloud your judgement of a movie go see it see if you enjoy it don’t take a film critics review to be gospel.
    Some movies I have seen these people (and I do say that loosely) absolutely pan I have gone to see and enjoyed, a couple of hours of escapism is good for anyone don’t let some one spoil something you may enjoy.

  • swell | March 10, 2011 7:12 AMReply

    Film is dead, huh?

    Here's hoping it takes your hyperbolic nonsense with it. I guess you folks always have live blogging about Annette Bening's weight and articles attempting to predict the Oscars a year out to fall back on (fyi: just because you feign self-awareness in the headers to those articles doesnt absolve you of your critical and intellectual sins... it's the journalistic equivalent of starting a sentence with "I don't wanna sound racist, but...").

    It's a disposal action film. It's not the first, worst, or last. But "film is dead". Get them page hits, rook.

  • E. Blair | March 10, 2011 7:04 AMReply

    I enjoyed this review. I'll probably see the movie eventually with the same lowered expectations a film called "Battle: Los Angeles" initially created in me. The first paragraph was over the top hilarity!

  • Trent. | March 10, 2011 6:01 AMReply

    What did we expect from the guy who brought us Texas Chainsaw massacre. The script to this movie was pitiful. I had hope for this movie when I heard Shane Black did a pass on the script and saw the trailer. Guess I was wrong. Another epic failure.

  • NCJ | March 10, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    Wow. I imagine this reviewer as being someone who is so unimaginably hateful it defies explanation.

    Go take a Percoset and have a little nap. It'll be better in the morning.

  • Marko | March 10, 2011 4:55 AMReply

    Well on the plus side, at least it wasn't released in 3D...

  • Stan | March 10, 2011 4:49 AMReply

    Duncan Jones (Who has most likely never even been to the Moon)...

  • RJ | March 10, 2011 4:31 AMReply

    My favorite part of this awful, awful review, is when he mentions "its filmmakers (most of whom have likely never been in battle)" - really?

    That just proves he should in no way be allowed near a computer to ever type a review again, even if he's right and the movie is terrible. The dumbest thing a reviewer can do is insinuate that because the filmmaker himself didn't experience the events, he can't make a movie about it (since that disqualifies most directors from every movie)

    I can see Gabe's review of "Schindler' list" reading like

    "The filmakers, who are jewish (but likely have never experienced genocide firsthand)..."

  • Edward Davis | March 10, 2011 4:29 AMReply

    amen, mark.

  • marrrk | March 10, 2011 4:23 AMReply

    if Gabe is a troll, i'm bringing my sleeping bag to his bridge.

    i'll completely excuse his hyperbole when it's up against films that completely inundate us with their marketing at every aspect of our lives. shit, i see adds for Battle: LA on the boards when i play NHL 11 for christ sake!

    fightin fire with fire.

  • Edward Davis | March 10, 2011 4:21 AMReply

    Hate all you like, this review is spot on. Pitiful.

  • Paul | March 10, 2011 4:12 AMReply

    I kinda figured. I watched a few clips online & the movie looked incomprehensible. Chopped to shit & terribly acted.

    Shame since the trailers were so well done & original. But that's new age blockbusters- great marketing for soulless features.

  • JwJames | March 10, 2011 4:00 AMReply

    I saw two clips a couple of weeks back and I said it then, "this is going to suck and suck bad."

  • Jack | March 10, 2011 3:59 AMReply

    While I'm sure this movie isn't going to be great, it's one in a long line of bad films - is probably one of the better ones. Get off your fucking soapbox.

  • Christopher Bell | March 10, 2011 3:47 AMReply

    There's no excuse for a retarded movie, popcorn or not.

  • nook | March 10, 2011 3:42 AMReply

    I loved your first paragraph. Your words ring so true.

  • Jim Napier | March 10, 2011 3:39 AMReply

    And now I am excited to see this film! This looks like the perfect film for what it is - a fun popcorn film. If you are looking for a reason that film is dead watch the trailer for The Last Godfather.

  • jimmiescoffee | March 10, 2011 3:26 AMReply

    how is it worse than say..transformer? at least this not based on a cartoon or action figure. i'm laughing at myself for defending this movie. but i can think of worse.

  • ASFan | March 10, 2011 3:09 AMReply

    And Gabe, don't worry if it opens decently.

    Because it will drop off quickly.

  • ASFan | March 10, 2011 3:08 AMReply

    Gabe's not the only one. Ebert just gave it half a star, which is his worst of the year so far.

  • Derf Nurfleberger | March 10, 2011 3:03 AMReply

    Not "a bit dramatic" if you've seen it.

    Gabe is right on on this one. Battle LA is a wretched piece of shit.

  • jimmiescoffee | March 10, 2011 2:55 AMReply

    wow. a bit dramatic?

  • ASFan | March 10, 2011 2:52 AMReply

    Just as I expected.

  • wtg | March 10, 2011 12:54 AMReply

    I dislike Gabe's contribution to The Playlist as I find him to be a troll you normally see ranting on IMDB message boards but for once he makes some sense.

    Having watched Battle: Los Angeles, it does not even qualify as escapist cinema like Independence Day when it takes a sombre approach to its juvenile material

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