"Bartender, I want an action film, something with lots of guns and planes and stuff."
"One alien invasion movie coming up!"
That's how director Jonathan Liebesman seems to have come up with this film Battle: Los Angeles. I had two reasons to watch this film, one I like formula films when they are well-directed. Two, I like the actor Aaron Eckhart since his film, "Thank You For Smoking" that was quite a challenging role he played and he did it very well.
Well, the movie let me down on both counts. It's professionally directed, but not well-directed. And Aaron has a typecast role which he carries off well but there's no challenge in it.
I believe that the story of a 2 hour film should not be so simple that it can be described in one sentence and this one can be. Here's my one-sentence summary of it - "A team of US Marines is sent to extract some civilians from an LA police station after aliens invade Earth in order to colonize it to take over her resources."
There are the usual character flaws and the plot twists, nothing special there. Actually, Jonathan has made a purely formula film and he has not taken full advantage of the formula even. One important ingredient missing was the "suits". You know when they zoom in on the pentagon then cut to the big board table, with all the big players watching things on screen...the secretary of state, the defence secretary, the president, and one general who has worked with the hero in the past. That creates a totally different kind of tension than the one where bullets are flying and bombs are blasting.
This director has replaced that with the news to appraise us, and the core team, of the progress of events. This has made the film quite one-dimensional and it feels like you are watching a video game. Actually video games these days have more involved plot lines than this.
Another bet he has missed is when it is reported that the aliens are powered by our water, but he makes no use of it to thwart them. The end of the film is quite inconclusive. There is no real sense of accomplishment, no end of the war kind of situation, where you finally exhale and say, good job, lads. Just a continuation of the fight done in a very lacklustre way and it sucks.
Even a bad movie has at least a few redeeming scenes and this movie has one. When Aaron rappels down from a chopper and his team joins him even though he told them to carry on, that's a good scene. Very brief, but good. But I wouldn't watch this movie again for that.
And I was reminded throughout of how this was a remake of Independence Day, and not a good one. Hence the title.
In a couple of places, I found myself second-guessing the director. For example in one place, the heroine (such as she is) makes a joke about doing a post-mortem on an alien body but the camera handling, or more likely the editing, kills the joke. I'd have done it differently.
In one shot, I could sense the presence of the crane camera and felt like I was watching the shooting rather than an actual scene from a film. I'd blame that on soundtrack and background score.
In a couple of places the background score is not suitable, but mostly it's fine for a formula film.
Conclusion: Overall, it's a film that you can easily miss, without losing anything, but if you get roped into watching it, you'd survive.