"Battle: Los Angeles"

Every once in a while I feel like the mainstream critics get caught up in mob mentality regarding a given movie. While most popcorn flicks come and go with little more than a “meh” from the average critic, occasionally said movie receives such a vehemently vicious as to become the proverbial ginger stepchild. One critic voices a strong disdain and is soon joined by another and another until you get the feeling that a blood thirsty band of Roger Eberts might be roving around theater parking lots, bullying anyone who would dare to enjoy this movie. 2011’s early leader to become the unassuming wimp to the critic’s ‘roided up jock is “Battle: Los Angeles.”

There’s very little build up in “BLA.” We are introduced to Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a career Marine whose last tour of duty resulted in some casualties. Nantz has filed his discharge paperwork and is essentially on his way out the door when the invasion begins. Landing offshore all around the world, what were at first thought to be meteorites turn out to be alien spacecraft and soon our shores are swarming with hostiles. Assigned to a new squadron, Nantz is forced to rally his young troops when it becomes clear that they are America’s last line of defense.

I won’t sit here and tell you that “BLA” is a great action movie. It isn’t. There’s almost no storyline, most of the characters often come across as caricatures of other war/action movie characters, and the aliens themselves are fairly mundane. You won’t find a well-developed backstory or any social commentary here and if you’re expecting that, just go rent “District 9” again. Some reviews I’ve ready would have you believe this entire movie is a metaphor for the United States’ attitude toward immigration. To those people I say, either stop watching CNN or stop watching cheesy action flicks; you’re giving the makers of “BLA” way too much credit. There’s no depth to “BLA” and there doesn’t need to be. There’s no identity crisis, no bloated sense of importance, and no ambition to become anything more than it is. And I, for one, appreciate that.

“BLA” knows its place in the world and it is better for that. It’s all action, all the time and for my money, there’s some merit in that. The Marines are under constant attack and director Jonathan Liebesman does an excellent job of creating an atmosphere of tension. These Marines are faced with an unknown enemy and the confusion and chaos that causes comes screaming through as they scramble to develop a strategy. The dialogue, though cliché, isn’t bad and the inevitable moments of artificial emotion/sentimentality work relatively well. There’s something about a group of soldiers marching stoically into the face of certain death for the betterment of the masses that gets me even when it’s done in such an obvious and over-the-top manner as it is in “BLA.” There is definitely a video game feel to “BLA.” In fact, as we walked out, my viewing partner and I both expressed a desire to play a game based on what we’d just seen. I completely understand if that turns some viewers off. More often than not I use “video game feel” as a criticism. This time around, however, it worked for me. It might be mindless entertainment but it’s still fun and at the end of the day, that’s all I wanted it to be.

All that brings me back around to the critical backlash that “BLA” has taken over the last couple of weeks and has been met with a slew of “D” and “F” grades. It has been described as “noisy and violent” to which my response is, uh, DUUUUHHH. Have you ever seen an action/war movie before? Even Roger Ebert himself, usually less harsh in his criticism than most, essentially called any fan of this movie an idiot and encouraged all friends and family members to disassociate from said idiot. It’s odd to me, with all the terrible action movies that have opened in the last couple of years, that Ebert (and everyone else) picked this one to get all hot and bothered about. It’s not great by any means and I’m not running out to see “BLA” again but I’m certainly not complaining, either. There’s something to be said for an action flick that sticks to its guns and doesn’t stray from the identity it creates for itself and you could do a heck of a lot worse with your movie dollar.

Grade: B-

I should have worked “lambasted” into this review somewhere,

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