Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Battle Los Angeles; a fearsome mutant vanquishes the demon enjoyment

I think the most fun I had at Battle: Los Angeles was the moment when they had a fake talking head on CNN explain that the all conquering aliens were here on earth to steal our water, because we had the kind they don't have anywhere else. This was such preposterous nonsense that it left me running in circles trying to figure out which part of it to hate first.

It's actually still providing me with entertainment as I try to think through all the ways in which I can riff on the monstrous idiocy, though I'm inclined to start with the simple observation that, on its own, it's perhaps the most realistic part of the movie, being as how in real life I WOULD naturally expect the talking head reaction on CNN or FOX or Sky News to be coming from someone completely ignorant of, well, everything. The ideal talking head on cable news seems to be a man who both doesn't know what's happening on the screen behind him, AND doesn't know anything real about his reported field of excellence. I've always treasured, for example, the moment when CNN wheeled out someone to explain in full solemnity that peace talks in Northern Ireland in 1992 had broken down because of opposition from Trades Unionists. This came hard on the heels of them more or less taking charge of public relations for the first war with Iraq, and left me wondering if the US had actually invaded the right country.

But I digress. Though, digressing right back, I was trying to figure out how the heck it could even be cost effective in materials terms to fight an interstellar war to get access to water, and I remembered that wars don't have to be cost effective for the people fighting them as long as there's a profit for the people deciding they ought to be fought. From which I infer that the invading aliens in Battle LA are irredeemably evil, because they've got wicked high technology, and apparently still have something like Halliburton as well.

Anyhow, having made sense of their motivation (and probably having given it more thought than anyone actually involved with the movie), I still have to make sense of why the hell I went to see it. I sort of knew even as I planned to go and see it that it was probably a festering pile of crap, but I'd been really taken with the early trailers and I sort of hoped that it wouldn't be as bad as the later trailers and all the reviews and my pure common sense and the presence of Michelle Rodriguez in the cast were warning me about. I went. I think I have an imp of the perverse. I wish that I could deploy this "doing things just because I really don't want to" germ in the cause of being more useful in work.

Battle LA is like some hellish leotarded mutant crossbred offspring of Cloverfield, Black Hawk Down, Independence Day and District 9. All of which are either good movies or at least bad movies which were fun to watch. Well, maybe not Cloverfield. Cloverhawk's Day Down in District 9 could very well have been the initial working title, before someone decided that it would just be awesome to throw in the climax of Independence Day and just break the thing beyond any feasible repair. So you got scrappy looking alien technology which is crazy destructive while being as streamlined and practical looking as bomb shrapnel, you got hopelessly outnumbered marines who don't know what's going on, and you've got scary monsters running round grabbing people and killing them. And I have to say, so far, so depressing, but at least kind of reasonable. It's probably safe to assume that if interstellar aliens ever show up here with mayhem in mind they're just going to curbstomp us in minutes. If they can figure out the energy budget for interstellar travel, they're going to find our state of the art weaponry as quaint as stone axes and almost as threatening.

Where it all moves over into blowing its own premise apart is when they decide to give it the Independence Day ending, as the survivors of the band of marines fortuitously figure out that there's an alien command base and just by chance they know where it has to be. So they go find it, and then call in an artillery strike. Actually, this bit is more the end of Saving Private Ryan than the end of Independence Day, so that's another good movie they stripped for parts and ruined. I was watching the grand climax as they try to hold off the aliens until the artillery can arrive and I was thinking; Saving Private Ryan did this perfectly. There was no need to try to do this again, and even if there was, this isn't the way you do it.

Having said all that Aaron Eckhart's pretty good. Everyone else is cannon fodder, but Eckhart's not bad at all considering how little they've given him to work with. Presumably this will now let him spend his middle age playing action heroes after a career spent up to now getting fewer and dumber roles than he deserved. But if you actually want to watch him in something clever and good, catch him in Thank You for Smoking. If you insist on both him and explosions, The Dark Knight Returns, where he can be just about found among the wreckage and the over and under the top competition being run between Christian Bale and Heath Ledger.

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