You may have noticed that most of the articles on here are written by me, I have more time than I should have, and this results in a lot of content in splurges. Yet from time to time we see other posts from contributors. Mostly these stem from me being cheeky and requesting an article – usually how I persuade Dr Hock at least – but last night Lolocaust mate AHDVD offered us up a review of the spiffy looking ‘Battle: Los Angeles’. Frankly it would have been rude to have said no, so here it is… enjoy!
The last time there was a seriously good alien invasion movie that was actually worth paying on the ever rising price of a ticket stub was in 1996. Hype was built up to unimaginable levels that paid off when people finally saw Independence Day, a flawed, but thoroughly entertaining big budget, special effects laden, invasion extravaganza… with aliens.
The trailers gave away very little (Something the current trailers should learn from), all it took for most was a shot of the Whitehouse being pulverized by a laser blast (Interesting…?), for others the word of mouth on just how fun this genre could be when done competently, built interest enough that the movie dominated the box office. Sci-fi had found a foot hold among the general going movie audience.
You see… Hollywood doesn’t do good alien invasion movies because Hollywood doesn’t really do good sci-fi. It normally screws it up big time, putting people right off the genre altogether.
After Independence Day, George Lucas attempted to re-kindle the Star Wars saga with the prequels to the original trilogy in 1999 through to 2005, alienating some of the biggest sci-fi fans, let alone non sci-fi fans.
John Travolta produced and starred in the adaptation of Ron L Hubbard’s sci-fi book Battlefield Earth. A movie that many consider to be an embarrassment not only to sci-fi, but a crime to movies in general.
More recently, Michael Bay got close to a sci-fi movie for almost everyone with Transformers, and then monumentally fucked it up with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Hopefully Transformers: Dark of the Moon will not alienate more than it wins to the genre later this year.
I’m not gonna be holding my breath on that one.
]I wasn’t sure about Battle Los Angeles as I had been aware of this and of the earlier released Skyline which were two movies from different studios that were about the same thing – another of the many annoying habits of Hollywood (Previous examples being Volcano & Dante’s Peak, and Deep Impact & Armageddon).
There was no way of knowing when viewing the trailers which of the two would be worth seeing (if any). The trailers both showed invasion movies, with vast forces coming to destroy us from the skies. Ultimately Skyline was like a typical Hollywood (invasion) movie – all special effects, with lackluster acting and direction (Really, what did you expect from the guys who brought us Alien Vs Predator: Requiem?).
Battle Los Angeles on the other hand is an alien invasion movie… that is not an alien invasion movie.
Yes, You did not mis-read that. A movie about aliens invading and attacking Los Angeles is not an invasion movie.
Let me explain.
Battle Los Angeles does not feel like an invasion movie, while it is set during an alien invasion, it actually feels and looks 99% like other modern war movies, the best example being Ridley Scott’s phenomenal Black Hawk Down – no small feat. The best way I can think to describe it simply is Black Hawk Down… with aliens. That’s how I actually heard it referred to in a review and cannot come up with anything else, because while that may sound ridiculous, it’s not – it’s incredibly accurate.
Yes, when the movie starts off we’re introduced to a bunch of clichéd characters who are planning a wedding, or have a heavily pregnant wife, or are a day from retiring. Only it doesn’t feel like a cliché, why? Because you know some of them are going to die, it’s a given in alien invasion movies as sure as the red shirt guy in Star Trek is gonna’ be the first to bite the big one. But the way the death’s are handled in this movie – as a matter of fact, unexpectedly in most cases, and not with the usual forced emotion. The movie does not overly dwell on the it, resulting in an air of unpredictability.
Aaron Eckhart, fresh from playing Harvey ‘Two-face’ Dent in The Dark Knight, is perfect in his part, and while his is largely the only character to really be fleshed out as it’s mainly his story, the other marines in his squad all bring their own gravitas to their scenes. One of the many things this movie gets right what Skyline got so very, very wrong.
This is not a sci-fi movie, this is a war movie… with aliens (yes I know I’m in danger of overusing ‘…with aliens’ but that’s the best way to put it). People die, panic, are brave, make mistakes and make smart decisions, some are more experienced and therefore more prepared than others, stupid things are said (though without sounding like corny one-liners), they react like real people in those situations, and it feels all the more realistic because of it.
At no point was I bored while watching this, the action set pieces were incredibly well done, and the (albeit minimal) character moments were engaging enough, the sense of tension was held throughout making it thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
I for one will hopefully be able to see this again in the cinema (the sound was incredible too), and will be getting the Blu-ray on its release.
Sci-fi fans should take a non-sci-fi friend to see this movie, if they liked Black Hawk Down, they’ll like this, and might realise that the term ‘sci-fi’ isn’t a dirty word. Hell, I may even go to see this with my Dad, and he has no love of science fiction.