Monday, 7 May 2012

Battle:LA Reviewed

Battle: Los Angeles

I am not a great movie-goer. Nine times out of ten, I regret going physically, even with my significant other. I don’t like crowded rooms, overpriced popcorn and supercilious ushers who bitch about you taking food from outside into the cinema. Very few movies get me actually going into the cinema and, to my regret, they didn't include Battle: LA. I really should have known better this time.

The critics have panned the movie. It is apparently simplistic, bloody and unrepentant, something that they do not seem to expect from great movies. What can I say? Entertainment – and I go to be entertained – is a subjective measure. I happen to like some science-fiction movies and if some snob thinks I shouldn't...well, he can kindly take a sexual travel package.

Battle: LA has a fairly simple background. Massive asteroids have come down from outer space and landed in the oceans near human cities, including LA. These asteroids swiftly discourage an alien invasion force that advances inland, smashing through human resistance. Marines from Camp Pendleton scramble to repel the offensive and fight the aliens before they can overwhelm all of the state. In the heart of this action, a single Marine platoon is given a different mission. A police station in LA is being used to hide a group of civilians who cannot get out of the city. The Marines have three hours to rescue them before the USAF blows the shit out of LA.

In one sense, there is nothing particularly innovative about this movie. We’ve seen this kind of story before, without aliens. But what makes it work – and it does work – is how the movie concentrates on the small platoon without taking more than a handful of glimpses at the overall war. Independence Day operated on a bigger scale than Battle: LA and paid for it, not least through more clich├ęs than Battle: LA allows.

The Marine platoon are all more real than many of their counterparts from Independence Day. There’s a green LT charged with leading his men into a desperate firefight, a sergeant who suffers from PTSD, green Marines on their first tour; one is planning to marry, one is waiting for a kid...and one who looks so young you’d think he should still be in school. Battle: LA makes the Marines real; they’re not picture-perfect figures from bad propaganda or monsters from other kinds of bad propaganda. And when some of them die, you can really feel the loss they leave in the team.

Battle: LA is not afraid to go back to the basic core themes of modern war. The film is a story of selfless heroism, courage under fire, teamwork, decency and sheer determination, without taking smug swipes at conservative values so often targeted by Hollywood. Nor does it indulge itself with suggestions that the Evil Government brought this fate on us or that the aliens are somehow better than us. It wisely does not pretend to be great art, but yours truly rates it as good art anyway. Few films are so effective in making their point.

It also grasps the confusing nature of war. Few non-soldiers ever realise just how quickly a situation can go from stable to desperate, when all of a sudden a situation has suddenly become lethal, bullets are pinging in around a soldier...and he has to make decisions in a split second. The leftists would have you believe otherwise, but almost all of the incidents of civilians being killed by Western troops at checkpoints happened because someone had to make a decision in a handful of seconds and fired on a car charging towards the checkpoint, a car that could have been loaded with high explosives. In some ways, I wonder if Battle: LA was not influenced by British sci-fi films and television programs. Throughout the first part of the movie, the aliens are half-seen, shadowy forces that push the Marines without ever quite coming into view. Watching the Marines overcome this and learn about their foe is one of the better parts of the movie.

There are two issues I would care to raise as a critic, however. The first is that it is implied that the aliens want our water. That’s nice, but there is plenty of ice floating around in space without pesky Earthlings sitting on top of it. Titan is a watery world; comets are known as dirty snowballs because they’re largely ice. The second blunder is a confident statement by a Marine that the aliens have no air force. This had me howling right from the start – they can get across interstellar space...of course they have a goddamned air force! The Marines should have noticed that from the start, instead of being surprised when the aliens suddenly turn out to have aircraft and support weapons.

The critics don’t like this movie. I do. Critics have no taste. <Evil Grin>.

Battle: LA is, first and foremost, a story of humans at war. And that is what makes it important.

I’d like to see a version of this story done for Afghanistan, but the PC thugs would probably kill it. On the other hand...

Dumb Blonde Female Reporter: But you invaded their country...surely they have a right to fight back?

Pissed-off Marine: Listen; these fuckers beat and kill women for going to school and wearing make-up, kill anyone who refuses to grow a beard, torture their captives purely for the hell of it and are intent on exterminating all other versions of their religion. You really want to live in a country where showing anything of your body would earn you a beating? Where your father would decide who you married? Where your male children might become catamites or suicide bombers while your daughters retreat into mental illness? Where your husband could rape you at any time and call it martial sex?

A bit later on, the dumb blonde could be kidnapped by the Taliban...

Hey, I think I have an idea here. Anyone want to write a movie script?

And if they can do this, why can't they do a Posleen movie?