Hey, everybody—it’s time for the Battle: Los Angeles installment of Count the Clichés! Here we go: (1) A shot of one guy in the middle of combat while everything around him goes silent and in slow motion? Check. (2) Guy runs out of rifle ammo and then gruffly pulls out his pistol to fight off the enemy? Check. (3) Shot of guy cowering with his hands clasped over his ears and crying as the gunfire rages? Check. (4) Reluctant veteran, gun-shy sergeant who commanded a botched mission is forced back into leadership, but the troops don’t trust him? Check. (5) Michelle Rodriguez as a tough Latina soldier? Check!!!
Battle: Los Angeles is basically an action-adventure in the guise of a sci-fi thriller, and the battle scenes are its only worthwhile minutes. Unfortunately, those minutes are few and far between. The great special effects you’ve likely seen in the previews? Multiply the length of that commercial by, say, 15 times, and that’s all of Battle that’s worth watching. In between are filler scenes and a clichéd plot seemingly hodgepodged from every action/adventure/war film ever made. This wouldn’t matter so much if it weren’t for the absolutely excruciating claptrap dialogue, most of which plummets out the mouth of Aaron Eckhart (just when you were starting to like him!).
Examples: “I would go to hell and back for you” (Eckhart’s character to the inept squad leader shortly before he’s killed). “Good luck, rookie” (a combat vet to an FNG the night before the shit hits the fan). “You’re the bravest marine I’ve ever met” (Eckhart’s character to a kid when his civilian dad dies). The phrase “One thing is clear, the world is at war” is used what seems like half a dozen times via voice-over news broadcasts. The few minutes’ worth of enthralling CGI and action are not worth suffering through this schmaltzy, cloying, and ham-fisted piece of shit. Here’s the question: Why is it so hard to combine quality story, acting, and dialogue with quality special effects? District 9 comes to mind, and it should be a role model, but most of the time what we get is another Avatar, Skyline, or 2012. What’s the deal? Do too many assholes get involved when there’s that much money on the line? Directors: Please do better.