Wednesday 10 August 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Oh, dear. This is a lurching Frankenstein of a movie, made from successful bits of other films clumsily cut out and stitched back together.

Look! There’s District 9’s spaceship. Wow. There’s Independence Day’s stirring speech to the troops. Hey. Isn’t that the big Hummer from Aliens driving through a confined, tunnel-like structure and mowing down all the, er, aliens?

The film lumbers from scene to stolen scene, each one only reminding the viewer how much better the originals were. Even Aaron Eckhart seems aware something’s not right, and he kept a straight face all through The Core.

And in a movie that lifts so shamelessly from its betters, the odds that each helicopter was going to thrum-thrum its way safely through to the final credits were always narrow.

How we reach the pivotal scene is thus: a small band of marines is, for no good reason whatsoever, sent deep into alien-held LA territory to rescue some people from a police station. (Note for military fans: the latest marine-enemy-incursion technique is to walk full stride down the centre of enemy-occupied streets talking loudly about relationships.)

The aliens – a spectacular piece of filching: essentially District 9 prawns with Predator heads – pretty much let the marines walk to the police station, then lay siege to it (just like in Assault on Precinct 13). Before long, the heroes also catch a live alien and experiment on it (Independence Day again) and escape in a runaway bus (Speed).

Having established its cut-and-paste credentials so confidently, by the time a ‘rescue’ helicopter lands next to the station the only real question is how it’s going to be despatched. Now, I don’t want to spoil all the fun, so I’ll just lay out the bare facts and see if you can guess.

The helicopter lands and is loaded full of injured marines – several of whom have been given hastily constructed ‘backstory’ in the opening scenes (pregnant wife, something to prove etc) so we care about them. At the very last moment, Aaron Eckhart runs out of the station holding two young children, but is JUST TOO LATE to get the adorable young scamps aboard the unquestionably safe airborne vehicle before it takes off.

As to what happens next? Well, I was as shocked as you’ll be. The helicopter is barely 50 feet in the air when a District 9-lite spaceship either shoots or goes straight through it. (I’ve rewound three times and still don’t know. The CGI is terrible and the editing so fast-cut that Michael Bay reportedly wrote in to complain.)

The explosion itself is prime computer-generated-tat. Tonnes of burning shards of unconvincingly rendered metal and rotor blades crash down all around the marines and kids. However, given that such a quick death would afford no opportunity for a final ‘Give this to my wife’ / ‘Marines. Ra-hoo!’ emotive speech, no-one is even scratched.

Not that you’re interested, but that woman from Girlfight – here making her turn in Avatar look like Sophie’s Choice – works out that if they can just destroy this one, hard to reach silo then the whole baddie infrastructure will come toppling down (Star Wars, anyone?). By the final scene, I felt like toppling over myself.

This is a deeply unnecessary film.

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