Sunday, 13 March 2011

REVIEW: Battle: LA

Because I'm a marine I see Uh-Rah at all the key moments in my life.

It is a real shame that Battle: LA wasn't based on a computer game, because this would probably be the best adaptation ever. As it stands, its a serviceable enough actioner that wears its gaming influences on its sleeve. From the slightness of story to the painful expository dialogue, to telegraphing motivations and character types from a mile away. Its only a terrible movie when people are talking, but when they're not it can be an enjoyable enough braindead first-person shooter. Of course the 12A rating betrays even that principle, but whatever. I'd be lying if I didn't get a kick out of the Aliens/Saving Private Ryan mash-up, but at the same time a movie this stupid can only be cut so much slack.

The opening 15 minutes is pretty much embarrassing, as we go from cliched and rushed backstory to cliched and rushed backstory, as the movie makes a feeble effort to pretend that these guys aren't just canon fodder. Its very much 'two days from retirement' type stuff, from the soldier with the pregnant wife to the soldier with the impending engagement, to the soldier with emotional baggage to the soldier with a dark past etc. Perhaps the worst thing about this is that its so false on the movie's part. If you want to be an adrenaline rush first-person shooter then be that, just don't pretend you're a real movie about real people, particularly when you have no intention of being one once you get started. But once the shooting starts I guess things pick up, with some nicely staged action sequences against a mostly unseen alien enemy. The thing is, with better writing, something like this could really work. I love Aliens as much as the next guy, and I even like many of its inferior rip-offs, but computer game influences can be damning as well as liberating, because while it frees things up to be more action orientated, it also brings with the same level of bastardized story-telling, of functional characters and of sheer emotional disposability.

Its attempts to not be a cardboard cut-out of a movie fail to the extent, that the fact that they've pimped that cardboard out with bitchin M-16's and masculine bravado doesn't matter as much as it should. Battle LA is almost the quintessential studio movie in that its high level of technical accomplishment and adeptness at providing cheap thrills is matched by a half-assed, lazy attempt to be creatively rewarding. Battle LA probably is very much a sign of things to come, the kind of ADD movie with enough cool shots to put together a nifty trailer ( which suckered me in, I'll admit) but as a whole, as a cinematic experience and as a story. Its just empty. Its a movie for the wrong kind of nerd.

Rating: 5/10

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