Battle: Los Angeles – Undiluted Bowel Water

Before I start, I have to make the terms of reference clear on this piece. What I am about to say is based up just the first hour or so of this movie. At that point, both I and my boyfriend were giggling out loud at totally inappropriate points and decided that we’d had enough. We left.

So if the movie suddenly became a classic post-modern analysis of the America psyche worthy of Dostoevsky or Orson Wells, then I unreservedly apologise and withdraw my application for a refund of the 19 quid the two tickets cost me. However, since the hour that we did see made Skyline look like Citizen Kane, I suspect that my apologies will not be needed.

So. How bad was it. This can best be summed up by listing the stereotypes that were so freely used:

  • The ageing senior non-commissioned officer – a staff sergeant in this case – who has a “history” and wants to get out of the service because he’s done his bit. Tormented by his past, just a little sexually ambiguous and beyond his best but willing to put his saggy, greying balls on the line for his country just one more time. Not Aaron Ekhart’s finest part.
  • A group of marines, containing a couple of gung-ho types who you know aren’t going to make it beyond the first half hour (think Star Trek red shirts and you’re spot-on), a virgin, a barely-disguised gay guy with beautifully managed eyebrows and moustache, an unseen “on leave” sergeant who will need to be replaced by the guy above, and a neophyte “lootennant” fresh out of US Military McCollege who’s as keen as mustard but inexperienced, ready to be guided by said ageing sergeant.
  • One of our group of seven mental dwarf marines had a brother who was killed while serving under the sergeant’s previous care. This leads to inevitable tension. At least, I think it was supposed to lead to tension. I was busy tutting at the inevitability of it all.
  • They meet aliens within ten minutes of the start of the movie, but don’t really get to see them at all.
  • Aliens have already wiped out Tokyo, London (shown in a 2-second TV clip in the background, a clip that I suspect gets changed to whichever territory the movie is playing in just to keep the locals happy) and assorted sundry other coastal cities. This information is provided in around 30 seconds then dismissed like an unwanted US geography teacher.
  • BUT! They’re after LA next. Cue much chest-beating and drawing of arbitrary lines in the sand: “We can’t let them get LA. We won’t let them get LA, hell no…” (giggles from the Brit audience). No explanation as to why LA is so special – from what I’ve seen it’s a shit hole and would benefit from a few thousand angry spaceships levelling it, but I digress….
  • All shots of aliens, aliens landing, alien ships, large expensive explosions, ruined landscapes and the like are through TV images. This allows the special effects people to save time by rendering all their shots in crapo-resolution rather than multiple-thousand lines required by decent film stock. A cheap trick that fools nobody with a functioning brain stem.
  • Our (by now beloved) heroes are despatched to a police station where an unknown number of civilians are thought to be hiding from the beasties. There is a time limit on this before Santa Monica is blown to kingdom-come in the usual US Military display of subtlety to get rid of the aliens. The time limit is mercifully short as by now the cinema audience is ready to offer themselves as sacrifices to the aliens…
  • During one of a seamless series of gunfights with clouds of smoke (see cheap special effects mentioned earlier) a small group of lost marines join our heroes. One of these new people is a ballsy lesbian marine who bears a remarkable likeness to Michelle Rodriguez because a) it’s her playing the part and b) that’s the only part she ever gets to play. Looks of brief confusion from the cinema audience as they tried to figure out if they were watching Battle: LA, Lost, SWAT, Resident Evil, Fast & Furious, Aliens (mistaking her for Colette Hiller) or Aliens vs Predator (mistaking her for Cynthia Dale Scott). Sadly this confusion is insufficiently distracting as…
  • They shortly come across the civilians. “Anybody there?” “Yes” “How many?” “Five, three are children” thus neatly capturing the attention of the mums who’ve been dragged along to this testosteronefest. Now there are kiddies in danger, it’s a family film with some potentially moving death scenes. Hopefully all three kids and hopefully quickly…
  • One of the civilians turns out to be a veterinarian, which is useful as it allows her to say “I’m a veterinarian, can I help” when they finally manage to capture a nearly-dead alien and they want to find out what makes it tick. It is, of course, well known that all aliens have exactly the same internal structure as your average Fresian cow, so how lucky was it that she was there to help?!

Plot-wise, this is where I have to stop, because we couldn’t disguise our laughing as coughs any more so we left. We don’t know if they saved LA, or the kids or the vet. Nor do we care.

Overall? Crap. Not just crap, but crap photographed using a hand-held camera managed by a cameraperson who seems to suffer permanent epileptic fits with their hand on the zoom button. More time was spent looking for the person who’s supposed to be talking than anything else. The whole impression was that the film was an exercise by a first-year media studies student who saw Skyline and thought they would do another one but with a few recognisable faces this time. They would have got a D- for this effort. Really REALLY badly photographed, a token effort at a script, jingoism that the Argentinian Junta would have been proud of back in 1982 and no characters that anyone other than a 13 year old boy would care about, I wonder what the executive that green-lit this was smoking at the time.

I really hope that this undiluted bowel water doesn’t represent some sort of trend for US sci-fi films, because they just died if it does.

Paul.