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The Independent Critic

Aaron Eckhart, Michael Pena, Bridget Moynahan, Lucas Till, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo
Jonathan Liebesman
Christopher Bertolini
Rated PG-13
113 Mins.
Columbia Pictures
PS3 Theme;
Behind The Battle;
Directing the Battle;
Building the Aliens;
Acting with Aliens;
Shooting the Aliens;
Preparing for Battle;
Boot Camp;
Creating L.A. in LA;
The Freeway Battle;
Command Control;
Staff Sergeant Nantz;
Marine Behind The Scenes;
Aliens Ambush The Marines;
Battling Unknown Forces;
Technical Sargeant Santos;
Alien Autopsy;
Gas Station Explosion;
Visual FX on the Freeway;
Do You Believe in Aliens?;
Alien Command & Control

 "Battle: Los Angeles" Review 
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In the movie 16 Blocks, an aging cop played by Bruce Willis is assigned the task of escorting a witness down to the courthouse 16 blocks away to testify in a major crime trial.

In the movie Battle: Los Angeles, an aging and soon to be retired Marine (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself in the midst of an alien invasion tasked with escorting a small group of civilians a few miles through alien (giggle!) territory to a supposed safe zone at the nearby Santa Monica airport.

In both cases, of course, nothing goes quite as planned.

While nothing in Battle: Los Angeles goes as planned, virtually every other aspect of the film follows cinematic formula as director Jonathan Liebesman and screenwriter Christopher Bertolini toss in virtually every cliche' in the alien motion picture book while almost directly ripping off pieces of District 9, War of the Worlds, Black Hawk Down and a few others films. I half expected for Eckhart to feed the aliens Reese's Pieces and encourage them to just "phone home."

Not that there's anything cute and cuddly about these particular aliens, who have apparently launched a global attack on earth initially disguised as meteors falling from the sky.

But, that's not important right now.

There will be those of you who will appreciate and maybe even modestly enjoy Battle: Los Angeles, a formulaic yet occasionally effective action flick with enough battle scenes to keep techno-geeks amused and enough intentional and unintentional one-liners to at least elicit a few giggles along the way to the obligatory alien ass-kicking once at least 20 major cities have been wiped out and Los Angeles is darn near destroyed.

While Liebesman thankfully avoids the larger-than-life Michael Bay style grandiosity here, too often he instead resorts to a near Cloverfield style of hand-held filmmaking that may more closely resemble the actual experience of an alien invasion but it makes for infinitely less interesting cinema. It doesn't help that Bertolini's script is filled with so many cornball lines, faux sentimentalities and unintentionally hysterical inspirational speeches that the film's climactic moments often are unintentionally laugh out loud funny.

While Battle: Los Angeles isn't horrible on the level of Skyline or Independence Day, it's close enough to horrible that anyone familiar with Eckhart's filmography will be scratching their head wondering just what the heck Eckhart saw in this project that made it worthy of his time. Did he really just need to decompress after the emotionally devastating Rabbit Hole?

Character development is so scant within Battle: Los Angeles that only the most experienced moviegoers will be even remotely familiar with anyone in the cast, which includes only a few B and C-listers such as Michael Pena (Crash) and Michelle Rodriguez (Virtually every bad action flick ever made including that mega-budget one from some guy named Cameron). Eckhart has a bit of a backstory as a soldier who lost a few men in the Middle East, including the brother of one of the men who will be under his leadership on this final mission.

Every frame of Battle: Los Angeles feels wasted, prime scenes developed only to be dropped by Liebesman, whose big claim to fame seems to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

Seriously, any director can suck once. Mistakes happen. But, when you suck repeatedly shouldn't there be a law that Hollywood doesn't hand over more and more money each time? Wouldn't it make sense to maybe move on to the next director? There are, after all, talented directors on the indie scene that could have worked wonders with this film.

The aliens here are sort of a cross between the techno world of Transformers and War of the Worlds with what is a surprisingly pleasing touch of life. Their alleged purpose for invading our planet won't be revealed here, but carries more than a few political tones to it. In one scene, that pretty much confirms that E.T. was right to be paranoid, Eckhart attempts to learn how to kill the aliens in ways that could have either been funny or frightening but turns out to be neither. Similarly, a "kids at risk" storyline is wasted and leads to one of the most hilariously wasted and melodramatic monologues in quite some time.

If alien films are truly your thing and you can set aside the cornball dialogue, predictable storyline and familiar set-ups, then Battle: Los Angeles may be enough of a popcorn flick to justify a matinee. If, however, you're hoping for a truly awesome action flick or the next great alien adventure you're better off waiting for the intentional comedy of Greg Mottola's upcoming Paul.

For the film's DVD release, it's hard to not get a bit more excited as the studio has thrown an abundance of extras on the two-disc set. For the wealth of technological knowledge alone, the DVD release is worth a view.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic