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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » March 31, 2011
Film review
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Battle: Los Angeles
March 31, 2011   
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Prior to Battle: Los Angeles, director Jonathan Liebesman’s main claim to fame was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and hardly anybody heard about screenwriter Christopher Bertolini. How on earth the two secured a $70-million budget for a movie devoid of a single original idea is anybody’s guess. But as long as viewers are happy, who cares about original ideas? On the opening weekend in the United States, Battle: Los Angeles topped the box office, raking in over $35 million.

What happens when you mix Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day with Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and throw in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down for good measure? The makers of Battle: Los Angeles must have been asking themselves just that question, judging by the titanic efforts cameraman Lucas Ettlin put in carbon-copying S³awomir Idziak’s cinematography in the Scott movie. The Academy Award nomination the Polish cinematographer won for Black Hawk Down clearly inspired Ettlin in his creative pursuits, as the camera dances in his hands as if he was the one chasing aliens in Santa Monica. Slow motion shots of empty bullet cases bursting out of machine guns, human figures emerging from smoke—we’ve seen it all before in Black Hawk Down.

The rest is a rip-off of familiar movies about an alien invasion of Earth. This time, evil and mysterious creatures from outer space come to steal water which they use to power their machines and, possibly, bodies. As in the Emmerich and Spielberg flicks, the aliens are technologically superior to humans, but they also have some weak points which the main characters in the movie need to figure out to save the planet.

Our heroes are led by Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart—The Dark Knight, Paycheck), who has just had his retirement approved. He is a veteran of many combat missions, including failed ones that ended with considerable losses. This time his squad are a bunch of rookies who are introduced to viewers in the opening 20 minutes. There is not much here other than a series of clichés. One of the soldiers is about to get married, one is seeing a shrink and another one has never had a girlfriend. None of that contributes anything to the rest of the story. The lieutenant who commands the squad is a walking cliché himself. Once a top student in a military academy, he knows little about how to lead his men into battle, and so it’s a no-brainer that he is doomed to die very soon. Admittedly, it is a hero’s death. Here is where Nantz has to take over the mission to save the world and protect civilians, with a special focus on little children who, as usual in American films, cannot be allowed to come to harm. In the brief moments when the tactful aliens conveniently hold fire, Nantz tells his people sentimental patriotic stories to spur them to action.

In the meantime, there’s the obligatory episode with the fair sex when the team is joined by Sgt. Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriquez—Avatar, Lost), a female pilot whose plane was shot down on a recon mission. She proves more eager to kick the aliens’ butts than the men. An important character among the escorted civilians is veterinarian Michele (Bridget Moynahan—Lord of War, The Recruit), even if “medical examination” of a captured alien boils down to sticking an army knife into its internal organs to see after which stab the patient will be kind enough to die. Then the guys will know where to point their guns to make their mission all the easier to complete.
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