Wednesday, March 23, 2011

“Battle: Los Angeles” – To be seen and not heard.

One of my favorite things about writing reviews is discussing movies with other people. It’s fun to get different opinions and find out what people like and dislike. It also leads to people saying insane things like “Titanic is the most overrated movie, ever.” I’ll leave that discussion for another time, but the same thing happened during a conversation about Battle: Los Angeles. A guy said it was much better than Independence Day and I had to make sure I heard him right. He defended his opinion and I refrained from calling him a moron. To my surprise, I heard the same sentiment on two other occasions and I am completely baffled. Are these people misremembering Independence Day or did they watch a different version of Battle: Los Angeles than I watched? Because there’s really no comparison between the two.

Before I describe why Battle: Los Angeles is clearly inferior, I will go on record as saying it was a good movie and I enjoyed it very much. It’s a war movie and doesn’t try to be more. It’s simply two hours of sensory assault in which marines and aliens kill each other and blow everything up. The special effects are pretty good, the aliens aren’t completely crazy looking, the actors perform their jobs adequately, and the plot is nothing more than a group of marines and civilians trying to survive. Nobody in the audience expected anything more and they got nothing less. In that aspect, the movie was a complete success. Had there been a break in the action, the audience might have started noticing some of the absurd things coming out of the characters mouths and components of the film that made no sense at all…and that’s where the two films diverge.

I’ve seen Independence Day at least a dozen times, so I can say with certainty that the story is tight, everything that happens makes sense, and none of the characters say things that make you scratch your head. Here are just a handful of the things in Battle: Los Angeles that easily could have been avoided and words that should never have been spoken out loud.

• The marines’ mission is to extract any remaining civilians before the military bombs the area. They have three hours to get out of the blast radius, but the bombs never fall. Dumb.
• “They’re here for our water. Sea levels are already dropping.” – Random scientist. We know there are only twelve command and control ships, so how are they already noticeably draining the oceans? And even if they are, who has time on their hands to check ocean levels? Really dumb.
• After destroying the command and control ship, they charge the alien foot soldiers. Really? Seven guys with four bullets left between them? Dumber still.
• “We already ate breakfast, sir.” – Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) defying his commander after fighting non-stop for at least 24 hours solid. You probably wouldn’t even be standing let alone have the energy to re-equip and run to the nearest helicopter to get back to fighting. Stubbornly dumb.
• What kind of ammunition are the aliens using? It punches holes through cars and concrete, yet only burns human flesh? Confusingly dumb.
• This may sound harsh, but if aliens are invading the Earth, I’m not sending my soldiers to the invaded areas to rescue some civilians. They’re aliens; I have no idea what capabilities they have, but I’m assuming the worst. Strategically dumb.
• Why does the military assume that the aliens have no air support and then act surprised when space ships show up? They just flew in. From space. Do they think there’s some interstellar taxi service that just dropped them off? Awesomely dumb.
• At the end, 3, yep – only 3, missiles are launched to destroy the command and control ship. I guess that’s all they had because I’d have launched dozens. Climatically dumb.

I could go on, but I think you’ve got the point by now. Independence Day doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes. It’s consistent with its story and events and the dialogue doesn’t have to be drowned out by explosions. It’s also not a two-hour recruitment video for the Marine Corps, which is essentially what Battle: Los Angeles appears to be. Two hours of kicking alien ass, blowing shit up, saving the world, and asking for more. It reminds me of those ridiculous Air Force commercials. One depicts a cargo plane that is also a transformer and another features a satellite executing a split-second collision-avoidance thrust maneuver, both underscored with the motto “It’s not science fiction, it’s the Air Force.” Proof that some things should not be spoken because they’re just plain dumb.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back. War movies don’t get much better than this.

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