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"Battle: Los Angeles" Pits Shaky Cam Versus Water-Stealing Aliens

The shaky-cam is coming, the shaky-cam is coming! Jonathan Liebesman directs his alien-invasion saga Battle: Los Angeles as if he were having a violent seizure, wedding whiplash faux-war-documentary aesthetics to a Michael Bay cocktail of ooh-rah military romanticism, quick-stroke melodrama, and seesawing CG mayhem.

Called into duty after news reports of extraterrestrial warfare devour the airwaves, a John Wayne–type staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart)—on the eve of retirement and in search of redemption—leads a Marine squad into laser-demolished downtown L.A. to evacuate civilians. As they proceed block by invader-infested block, their mission suggests Iraq/Afghanistan parallels that are overwhelmed by bludgeoning cacophony (including a few brumfs! borrowed from Inception) and visual incoherence.

Matching the indistinctness of the human protagonists, whose pre-conflict intros fail to establish empathy for their future up-a-creek circumstances, the film’s mushroom-headed bio-mech invaders prove a featureless bunch out to steal the planet’s water supply. Not a single arresting image is found amid the sci-fi rubble, though unintentional laughs eventually arrive courtesy of a cornball motivational speech by Eckhart’s hero that he then immediately dismisses with, “None of that matters right now.”

Ultimately, it’s not clear what’s more nauseating: the Tilt-a-Wheel cinematography, the shameless second-act bid for weepy-child bathos, or the suggestion of an inevitable sequel.


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