North America

North America's return to alien-invasion themes in stronger than it's been in years: in 2010 'District 9' was up for an Oscar, in 2008 'Cloverfield' redefined viral marketing. And this year several more alien films are on the way, some anxiously awaited.  The big blockbuster with an invasion theme this past weekend was

"BATTLE:LA" or "BATTLE: LOS ANGELES"
 
The latest movie is grittily-realistic like "DISTRICT 9", but packs all the action and punch of the 80's classic "ALIENS".
 
The movies starts out like a chainsaw, no slowbuild here.  The opening action is only tamed by a quick review of the preceding 24 hours but it doesn't drag or slow down the quick jump into the fray. The plot in this one is simple: aliens are landing (initially mistaken for meteors),  the invaders spash into our oceans, then wade ashore to colonize. Although this is happening simultaneously around the globe, our film is specifically focused on the west coast war in the City of Angels.
 
No real spoiler here, but the aliens are after our water (we are the only planet we know of that has water/moisture in a liquid form easily accessed on the surface, and the face of our planet is approx 70% water). This will be fun for fans of the genre who will remember the M Night Shyamalan film SIGNS, which took a beating in some circles for making the otherwise powerful aliens foiled by good ol' H-2-O.
 
The special effects are well done, and the characters are easy to relate to; but it does suffer from that "squad-syndrome" where the viewer is introduced to so many faces so quickly that we tend to label and compartmentalize them without names. There's the good guy, the mean guy, the hotshot, guy in glasses, guy getting married, the marine that is facing down shell-shock, the little kids that need to be rescued, and so-on.
 
The movie is built around Aaron Eckhart, who carries the role of aging marine well.  Also enjoyable (at least to me) is the always fiery and beautiful Michelle Rodriguez, most recently of the TV show LOST and the movie MACHETE.  Apparantly one of the marines is played by rapper Ne-Yo. Which is funny, because there is a marine that I could have sworn was Eminem, but I can't find his name in the credits, on line etc. Funnt coincidence there.
 
As usual the aliens appear invincible, until we learn that they have a soft-spot....and then we need to see if our tired, scared and outnumbered marines and citizens can beat the odds. Do they come out on top? Well, what do think?? I won't answer here, but will add that it's more than half the fun just to watch and see what happens, and how it happens, even if we can almost guess the win or lose answer based on all the other alien films we've seen.
 
Worth checking out at theater or later as a rental/home viewing. Well done overall, and much much better than the last disastrous space-movie I saw, SKYLINE, last summer. If you suffered through that one, this will be a welcome return to a "good" invader tale.
 
Rating: 3.75 cookays out of 5.
 
3 good things about this film:
* Aaron Eckhart creates a believable and likable central character.
*The special effects are well done, overshadowing the occassionally clunky dialogue.
* The gritty, deadky realism is well done and maintained throughout.
 
3 bad things about this film:
*The female cahracter played by Bridget Moynahan was confusing for me: was it supposed to be a love interest? A sympathy character? I still don't know.
*In it's quest for gritty realism, the constant shaking and "hand-held" camera-style gets a little much.
*Movie could've used less time/film (I can envision about 20 or 30 minutes shaved off)...and, conversely, I wanted a better viewing and understanding of the aliens themsleves. I felt a little let down there.

 

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