Movie Review – Battle: Los Angeles

This post is from the wonderful “The Secret Lair” blog/podcast website. Visit them for more.

This review, or “Post-Date Correspondence” was written by Dr. John Cmar.

Dear Battle: LA,

Thanks for showing me an interesting time last weekend! I did enjoy myself, but I\\™m afraid that most of what you tried to do on our date didn\\™t work out quite like you intended it to. I appreciate the effort, I really do\\¦ but I don\\™t think we can see each other again.

Now, I get what you were going for, and like I said, I did end up having fun. Kicking back to enjoy a movie with plenty of combat and lots of explosions is cool, and something I certainly like to do. I must say that there was plenty of both, and it all looked quite pretty. I loved how you used the shaky cam during the fight scenes to add tension, and to the chaos of the battlefield. Even better, it did a great job of helping to keep the alien invaders mysterious for the first part of the flick, which was a nice touch. That, I liked!

What I did not like was that you used the shaky cam throughout the rest of the film too. Seriously, why did you think it was necessary to have a jerky hand-camera in a scene where two men are calmly talking to each other in an office? I know, I know \\“ you were trying to pull me into the action with a sense of immediacy, but it ended up being a bit weird. There wasn\\™t a character holding the camera, so maybe you meant to evoke a documentary-style feeling? Whatever your goal, it was a bit too much, sort of like the lens flares in that Star Trek movie I went out with a few times recently. Oh, and I should tell you that one of the other people that was on our group date last weekend was getting over a massive migraine, and your damn shaky cam brought it right back for her. Yeah, she was the one who stopped watching after the first few minutes. I know you didn\\™t do it on purpose, but that was not cool at all.

Listen, I know you tried really hard, and you had a great idea: an alien invasion told from the perspective of a team of marines on the ground should be awesome. You even scored the always excellent Aaron Eckhart as the main protagonist Nantz, and he did a great job with what he was given. Sadly, you didn\\™t give him much, and most of the dialogue was just uninspired. Yes, you tried to get me to care about all the other marines too by introducing snippets of their personal stories in the opening sequence. But here\\™s the thing \\“ ignoring the fact that it felt like you were running through a roster of classic soldier-movie cliches (the married one with a pregnant wife, the about-to-be-wed one, the one who\\™s brother was just killed, the one who\\™s about to retire, and the rookie, to name a few), you killed several of them too early in the story for it to matter. Between not being able to keep track of most of the individual marines in the shaky-cam combat, and that many of the personal stories set up in the beginning are never revisited later, I ended up not really caring about most of them. In fact, apart from Nantz and one other solider, the other focal protagonists of the flick aren\\™t even among the marines that you took such care to establish in the beginning, which was just bad storytelling.

Speaking of storytelling, there were a couple of spots where you botched the science in a way that was so wrong, it broke me out of my pleasant suspension of disbelief. The worst was when you said that the Hubble space telescope was able to take thermal images of multiple objects that had suddenly appeared in earth\\™s atmosphere. That\\™s just not possible. Hubble doesn\\™t do that. Period. I know most people don\\™t have a great understanding of what Hubble\\™s capabilities are, but since you put the scope in your script, you had damn well better know yourself. The sad part is that you had any number of other satellites that could have done the same thing for your story, that you either didn\\™t bother to research, or chose not to use. Thor above, you could have even said it was an astronaut with a thermal camera on the International Space Station. The other painful science bit was when several scientists used the phrase \\liquid water\\ to distinguish it from water in other states. While the point you were making was that it was not ice or water vapor they were talking about, \\liquid water\\ as a turn of phrase wasn\\™t the right bit of dialogue to stick in the scientists\\™ mouths, and it was odd enough to throw me off. These may seem to be small things to you, but you know that I am a man of science, and so to wine and dine me, it matters.

Now, like I said, I did enjoy your movie, despite it\\™s faults. The combat and the explodey bits were intense and very well done. The design of the aliens and their tech was detailed and cohesive, and I enjoyed how new extraterrestrial weapons were rolled out at regular intervals during the course of the film. And, naturally, it had a happy ending\\¦ well, for the story I mean, not the other kind of on-a-date happy ending. Battle: LA, my dear, you won\\™t be getting another chance at one of those from me. It was a pleasant enough time, but I\\™ve moved on. Good luck with your future endeavors!


The Bad Doctor (who kind of regrets this blind date)

John Cmar is a practicing physician in Baltimore, where he specializes in all aspects of infectious diseases, as well as training the next generation of Johns Hopkins doctors. He is also a practicing geek, which manifests itself primarily as a love of electronic, board, and roleplaying games, such as the gloriously involved Arkham Horror. Professional experiences that he is pleased to no longer be practicing in include minionhood in computer sales and service, as well as industrial lamppost forging machinist. In addition to giving progress reports on his nefarious medical endeavors for The Secret Lair, he has donated his vocal talents to numerous podcasts and audio fiction, including Mur Lafferty\\˜s The Takeover, and Escape Pod. He resides in the \\suburban hell\\ of Columbia, Maryland, with his Moon Ranger wife, five cats, and a constantly depreciating number of fish. As the chief physician and sole proprietor of Saint Nickanuck of the Tundra Online Memorial Hospital, he rants about odd geek and medical sundries in it\\™s hallowed halls.

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