Battle: Los Angeles blows up the script

The intention was for mayhem, and it’s about all there is

I said, “Don’t look up!”

I said, “Don’t look up!”

Battle: Los Angeles
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-Yo and Michael Peña. Directed by Christopher Bertolini. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0

Battle: Los Angeles is an interesting experiment. Interesting as far as what they were trying to accomplish, not so much as what they achieved. It’s one of those movies that translates the kinetic energy of a first-person-shooter video game onto a movie screen. But a video game doesn’t cut every second to bounce your eyeballs around like Lotto balls.

Absolutely no plot here other than Marines (led by Aaron Eckhart) trying to get civilians out of the city and pausing to call in a missile strike on the alien command. Whether that’s a plus or a minus depends on what you’re looking for. I suspect that what they were trying to do is take the combat vérité that opens Saving Private Ryan and sustain it over the course of an entire movie.

Problem is, no one involved here has the chops to pull it off. So what we end up with is an exercise in motion sickness. I generally don’t have a problem with shaky-cam, but these folks don’t know how to use it efficiently (i.e., sparingly). There’s no reason, for example, to exaggerate the shake of a handheld camera during a conversation about wedding plans.

Not helping matters is that the faux verisimilitude of combat is undermined by the soaring Hollywood soundtrack. They work against each other, pushing the viewer away from the suspension of disbelief.

Visually, there’s nothing new here—same ol’ mecha-organic aliens, same ol’ eyesore spacecraft that looks like it was assembled from a wrecking yard. And the simulated lo-fi look (along with the shaky-cam) kept my eyes from locking in on any given detail.

On the plus side, the actors are competent, there are a few affecting moments, and some of the action set pieces actually work. Just not in a big-picture sort of way. I respect the intent that Battle: LA was made with a stripped-down approach to narrative, with little dialogue to get in the way of the Sturm und Drang. Here, words are tolerated only enough to serve as exclamation points to separate the explosions—which, in theory could be pretty cool, but in execution, not so much.

All in all, the film was OK for a matinee. I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t thrilled. I suspect it’d play better on a home theater. The trailer as played on an HD monitor seems crisp and relatively easy to follow on a more confined surface. On a big screen, it just looks like blown-up news footage.