Review: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Can you fault a film for delivering exactly what it promised to deliver? According to the overwhelmingly negative reviews of Battle: Los Angeles, apparently you can. Let me start by saying that Battle: Los Angeles is not a very good film and it could’ve been a lot better while still sticking to the fundamentals of its concept. But it is not a bad movie and it is most definitely not the sign of the Apocalypse that so many critics have called it. Battle: Los Angeles is simply and unremarkably a decent action movie. When discussing the film, you have to begin and end with the action, because for better and for worse, that’s all it is: action. Director Jonathan Liebesman may not have crafted the game-changing alien invasion flick that some of the post-Comic-Con buzz hyped it as, but Battle: Los Angeles does have good action sequences. Liebesman’s use of shaky-cam throws us into the fight alongside the marines and allows us to experience the sensory overload that would presumably come with fighting an alien invasion. This movie is frenetic and loud and will likely leave people who were dizzy during The Bourne Ultimatum retching in the aisles. But it is well-done action. The battle tactics, the expendability of the film’s characters, the restricted setting all speak to the film’s emphasis on realistic warfare. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are so obsessed with realistic action that they forgot to craft realistic characters, or, more precisely, realistic dialogue.

The dialogue in this film is ridiculous. While the characters are cut from the standard cloth that all generic war films make use of, they aren’t entirely dismissible, mostly due to the actors playing them. Aaron Eckhart makes for a good, heroic action hero complete with chiseled jawline and I look forward to seeing him in better action films in the future. Michelle Rodriguez is dependably good as the token female soldier she always plays. The problem with the characters is that they talk like they’re in a recruitment film for the Marines. And, in a way, that’s what the film ends up being. It’s unnecessary to belabour the point that Battle: Los Angeles lacks dramatic depth and emotional engagement. Its clichéd characterizations are apparent from the opening minutes of the film. However, Battle: Los Angeles is not about the characters; it’s about the action and the action succeeds.

Battle: Los Angeles certainly could have been better, but it displays a skill and realism in its action sequences that is not present in all modern action movies. While I won’t defend it to my death, I refuse to apologize for enjoying it or try to justify it as a “guilty pleasure.” It surpassed my expectations and fulfilled its promise of gritty, kinetic action entertainment. I’ll take Battle: Los Angeles over Transformers any day of the week.

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman; written by Christopher Bertolini; starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, and Bridget Moynahan.

6 out of 10