Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle: Los Angeles hits theaters this weekend and it’s a curious beast of a film, a summer blockbuster released in the wintry malaise of March. That being said, it’s probably one of my most anticipated film for quite some time, with a beautiful teaser trailer (embedded below) and a moody, atmospheric marketing campaign that played off of previous, real-life and alleged “alien encounters.”
So did the film live up to its savvy marketing? Was the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning able to create a moody, epic, sci-fi war film? Hit the jump for some brief thoughts and leave your own in the comments. As usual, spoilers are allowed after the jump.
I have to say I’ve been pretty shocked by the critical response so far to Battle: Los Angeles. To read some critics, the film seems to herald the end of cinema. Ebert gave the film one star:
“Battle: Los Angeles” is noisy, violent, ugly and stupid. Its manufacture is a reflection of appalling cynicism on the part of its makers, who don’t even try to make it more than senseless chaos. Here’s a science-fiction film that’s an insult to the words “science” and “fiction,” and the hyphen in between them. You want to cut it up to clean under your fingernails.
The Playlist is similarly disparaging:
Film is dead. If we allow “Battle: Los Angeles” to survive beyond Monday, when its box office receipts will give the film the illusion of meaning, then we can say goodbye to the art form. If people find something worth saluting in this cynical, soulless, pointless waste of celluloid, then appreciation of the craft has dwindled to a point that would make Pauline Kael turn over in her grave, that would make Godard defecate stones, that would make Eisenstein commit seppuku. It is a film of no value, or no politics, seemingly churned out by a Hollywood machine dedicated to providing audiences with the dullest, least-offensive version of what people perceive as entertainment today: the disposable, empty wasteland where the morally bankrupt create junk that flatters the ignorant and alienates the informed.
Pretty alarmist stuff. To get an opinion from the flipside, just see Ain’t It Cool News‘ take:
BATTLE LOS ANGELES is a rare movie. Most movies with really crappy scripts never overcome them. Not only does BATTLE LOS ANGELES overcome it, it almost turns the script into a running joke into itself. But while the dialogue drops bricks into the toilet bowl, Jonathan Liebesman’s direction is… hell, I don’t want to use the word flawless, because it’s not. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen action scenes so well coordinated and riveting as the sequences in BATTLE LOS ANGELES.
I think Scott Mendelson has one of the most measured takes on the film:
Rare is the movie that loses points for being too realistic. But Jonathan Liebesman’s alien invasion picture feels less like an epic and more like a genuinely plausible war picture. This is not a bad thing, and the film is generally successful at showing what the military response to such a domestic threat might be. The film is basically Black Hawk Down, with the faceless marauders being from outer-space instead of militant indigenous people. While the marketing promises scale, the film merely delivers claustrophobic survival with no real deeper meaning that would give the carnage any real weight. Liebesman gets the details seemingly right, but the end result is a war picture where the fact that the invaders are from ‘up there’ seems almost beside the point.
In my opinion, Battle: Los Angeles is a competent war movie, with a script so brimming with clichés it’s almost comical. Those looking for something more meaningful, thought-provoking, or emotional would probably be best served by a war film like Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Dawn. But if you’re looking to kill two hours with virtually non-stop, well-staged action set pieces, you could do far worse than Battle: Los Angeles.