Here we go with another movie in which the Earth gets destroyed; the main culprit of such movies in recent years is Roland Emmerich who is the man behind Independence Day (which I really liked) 2012 and The Day after Tomorrow. Michael Bay also features predominantly in this genre as his films include the Earth under threat from asteroids, giant robots and Shia Labeouf.
The world is under attack (or that should be America is under attack as the little places that make up the rest of the world are barely given a mention) by an unknown enemy. This unknown enemy turns out to be aliens who are intent on colonising the planet. Battle LA (AKA Battle Cliché) focuses on a small squad of men led by 2nd LT William Martinez (Ramón Rodríguez), joining them is SSgt Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) who lost men on his most recent deployment and this creates friction in the group. These men lead a fight of survival and aim to defeat the alien invaders.
The words 'mindless entertainment' has been chucked around a lot, it's used to describe films that normally come out during the summer months featuring dreadful dialogue, drab acting and a rather brainless plot. Battle LA can be classed as mindless entertainment but Battle LA is by far more mindless than it is entertaining. While Battle LA is indeed a collage of expositions, patriotic speeches and enough clichés to put a romantic comedy to shame, Battle LA still provides an hour and a bit of decent entertainment, after that Battle LA just gets slightly boring as thought-out all the explosions many will notice a lack of any real narrative. The fight scenes lack any tension due to Battle LA being devoid of any interesting or likable personalities, also the shaky camera work makes the action sequences almost incomprehensible and there is a definite feel of repetitiveness that resulted in me getting slightly more bored and fidgety as the film trundled slowly on through its overlong two hour running time. I knew what I was expecting when I chose to watch Battle LA but that still did not stop me getting slightly bored.
This is where we get to the main debate about films that are classed as 'mindless entertainment'. Those who enjoy these types of films (you are well within your rights too) claim that films like this should not have a good plot, script and acting (because that's not the point) but why shouldn't they? Why should we put up with a film that is below the quality level that can be achieved? A film is not going to lose money because it has a good script, a film is not going to lose money because it has good performances and a film is not going to lose money because it has a smart, engaging plot. Inception is a great example, Inception is a film that requires a certain degree of concentration but yet due to the A list cast and special effects Inception still managed gain a box office total of over $800,000,000. Another good example is the rebooted Batman franchise which is smartly written, intelligently made yet still successful, as The Dark Knight raked in over $1,000,000,000, so what is the excuse for the badly written rubbish of Transformers and Battle LA? There isn't one, so to defend a film that is badly acted, poorly written and mindlessly plotted by saying that it is mindless entertainment is simply not good enough.
Now I admit a film about an alien invasion is never going to contain a plot that is groundbreaking but the reason given for the alien invasion is so lacking in imagination and so pathetically generic that even the biggest fan of mindless entertainment films cannot help but groan. The script is terrible, featuring many 'amusing' lines of dialogue that are quite simply not funny. There is one line of dialogue that gives Aaron Eckhart the worst line he has ever said 'we have to get outside the bomb radius.' Really? I would never have guessed that (!) The characters are clichéd, and woefully developed. The performances are forgettable, Aaron Eckhart is told to give facial expressions that vary in degrees of intensity and Michelle Rodríguez (who has never impressed me as an actress) does the same role she has done already in the likes of Avatar. Good performances and interesting characters are needed to please everyone in the audience; nobody hates a film for building character. Summer Blockbusters tend to be empty and soulless beneath the explosions and GCI spectacle. I have already proven that an attempt to make a film with a decent script, likeable characters and a plot that does go somewhere does not damage the financial figures. It seems that director Jonathan Liebesman never bothered with anything outside the GCI effects and to cap it off the alien is forgettable, surely that's one of the most important aspects of a film like this?
Even though it may not seem like it, I did not hate Battle LA. For the first hour and a quarter I quite enjoyed it but there are only so much explosions can do to entertain me and two hours of explosions are always going to become tiresome without likable characters and a plot that does not borrow elements from every other apocalypse, disaster or alien invasion movie ever made. If you like mindless entertainment then you would like this but as a paying customer you are within your right to demand more.