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Battle: Los Angeles 

Mankind? Nah. We got aliens, armies and blow-it-up bombast!

click to enlarge The Martians try to make it in L.A.
  • The Martians try to make it in L.A.

Battle: Los Angeles

GRADE: C+

A cinematic mash-up of Blackhawk Down and Independence Day, I have little doubt this $100,000,000 exercise in unadulterated war porn will rake in incredible box office dollars. It paints a big fat bull's-eye on America's fetishization of guns, machismo and black-and-white morality, then blasts away with as much firepower as Hollywood's special effects teams can muster.

The plot? Aliens attack, a lot of shit gets blown up, we figure out their weakness, and kick their otherworldly asses. All that's needed is a rousing chorus of, "America — fuck, yeah!" to complete the package. If I were Michael Bay, I'd watch my back. Director Jonathan Liebesman is gunning for his Lord of the Action Movie title, even if he does lack Bay's (God, I can't believe I'm writing this) compositional prowess.

In comparison to Bay's adrenalized angles and power-chord pyrotechnics, Liebesman's faux-doc, handheld shooting style comes off as energetic but unfocused, like a 6-year-old trying to write his name in the snow with piss. Unable to build suspense or anticipation ... or, heck, even a few instances of drama, he instead opts for all-bombast-all-the-time.

Luckily, the dude has millions of dollars of pixels and set design at his beck and call. If Battle: Los Angeles does one thing right, it feels authentic. Eerily so. Like the spastic footage of an embedded CNN cameraman, it creates a convincing and immediate environment that's both thrilling and a little sickening. Never mind that you don't really care about any of the soldiers or even the fate of mankind, you still want to look around that next war-torn corner. Eventually, however, the gimmick wears off and, as with most wars, you just want the damn thing to end.

Clearly, Battle: Los Angeles was made for the Xbox generation. It sketches its cardboard characters, paint-by-numbers plotting, and lumbering dialogue with the same second-rate artfulness of a first-person shooter. Even the usually excellent Aaron Eckhart is defeated by Christopher Bertolini's profoundly banal script. Still, action-flick fanboys will slurp up every predictable minute. If a game cartridge tie-in isn't released within a month of release, Hollywood has blown a very big opportunity for content synergy. The game pack scenarios are limitless. Battle: Chicago, Battle: New York City, Battle: London. As Chuck Berry once advised, the surest way to produce a hit is to include as many hometowns as possible. Battle: Ypsilanti, anyone?

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