Monday, March 14, 2011

Notes on the Battle of L.A.

I went to see Battle Los Angeles this weekend. As I was checking times, a young lady buying tickets asked the teller, "Is it true that it really happened?". The guy behind the glass looked up and, holding back a smirk, confirmed to her that it indeed actually happened. I'm sure she figured it out about 10 minutes into the film. The real Battle of Los Angeles was an interesting incident in 1942 that has captured the imagination of U.F.O. followers ever since, but it has absolutely nothing to do with this film. I really didn't expect to be saying anything about it here, but it caught me by surprise in a way that I thought should be commented on. You see, I was expecting a science fiction film. What I saw was a very nicely directed war film. There wasn't the slightest trace of what sci-fi fans usually go to see, and that is a good thing. Who needs to be teased? If this is a war movie, then by God, let me put on my marine helmet and enjoy it as such. In other words, the movie earned my respect for NOT trying to be science fiction.

It was a very clever idea. Being from L.A. myself, the idea of seeing a bona-fide war film set right in my own backyard is something that I'll admit can draw me in. Even if I believe it will be cheesy, the familiarity factor is enough to interest me. But you could not pull off an invasion from another country of the world without also offending entire neighborhoods in this town. In a city where you find just about every nationality there is, the only invader that could get them all rooting for the same team would have to be from outer space. To create a war scenario, the invader would need to be of hostile intent from the first moment so there is no time to bother trying to communicate with them. The cadets at Camp Pendleton would be called upon immediately to engage. And this is exactly what happens. Any information that is obtained about the alien's biology or weaponry is used as intelligence to better strike against them. Although their weapons are advanced, none of it is all that unusual. The intent of the creators is to produce the same experience as might be expected when fighting any new enemy where one must learn how they think and what their military capabilities are. On top of that backdrop, you have all the elements that make war films worth all the carnage. Heroic sacrifices, camaraderie born out of shared suffering, dealing with the ghosts of past memories, and getting a bunch of people to work together to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances. There are also some scenes with a family they are trying to rescue that were touching enough to bring me to tears. Like I said, it's no Saving Private Ryan, but I think war movie buffs will eat it up.

So my hat goes off to John Liebesman for having a clear vision for what he was trying to do and then doing it well. Yes, this is a Marine pride film, but not in the usually cheesy manner that these guys are sometimes portrayed in Hollywood. No, this is one that does a decent job of actually honoring the soldier hero. Hoo-aah.

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