Battle: Los Angeles [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (30th July 2011).
The Film

"Battle: Los Angeles" is a very, very silly movie. In fact, it's kind of stupid - but not joyously so. It's a movie with one hook - a faux-documentary feel to following a group of Marines during an alien invasion. It tries to wring absolutely everything it can out of that photography choice and it is often nauseating and headache inducing. And to clarify: this is not a "found footage" type of film, like "The Blair Witch Project" (1999) or the more recent "Cloverfield" (2008) and "Paranormal Activity" (2009). This is more like an ADHD Bourne film.

It starts strong: right in the middle of the first stage of the invasion, with the Marine unit en route to they-don't-know-what. It immediately loses that forward momentum though when things cut back to 24 hours previous. And why cut back in time? To get to know these Marines I guess? So we maybe care about them a little when they eventually die in some alien-related fashion? Well, it would help if any of these Marines were actual believable characters. As they are, they're barely rough characterisations and speak in cliche and exposition. Yes, I don't really expect fully drawn and realised characters in this type of film, but there's got to be something more there - especially as we could have learned the same, if not more, about the characters once they hit the ground.

And, really, you don't even have the visual effects for your eyes to distract you with. For a big, studio-based, effects heavy film a lot of the VFX look, frankly, cheap and shitty. While the cinematography (if, as the purists sniff, you can call it that) is there to all but scream at you THIS IS REAL! See, 'cos it's out of focus and stuff! What would have actually made the film more "real" would have been believable characters and decisions. Aaron Eckhart does his level best with the shoddy writing he's given. The script feels like a mash-up of "Cloverfield", "Independence Day" (1996), "Signs" (2002) and video-game cut scenes with none of the fun or inventiveness of any of them (it baffles my mind that some people are saying this is better than "Independence Day". It's not).

It's not all bad, however. There are moments of pure visceral thrills and you really come to believe Eckhart as the tougher than nails Staff Sergeant Nantz. If there really must be a sequel, it could do worse than following Nantz once more into the breach. The film also works as an excellent way to blow out the cobwebs in your brain, just from it's sheer frenetic sense of action, action, ACTION! But if you're looking for a grunts vs. aliens film you really can't do better than Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers" (1997). Everything that "Battle: Los Angeles" gets wrong, "Starship Troopers" gets right: from the action, to the sly subversive intent, to the gore, comedy and fun.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 this HD 1080p 24/fps image is mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression and looks suitably solid. This newly released film covers all the aesthetic hallmarks of a decent image transfer. The image is sharp, the saturated tones look good, the detail is impeccable (although some of the special effects look a bit off, like they could have used a few million more dollars and a bit more time to get them just right), blacks are solid however in some dimly lit scenes and night scenes there's some noise, but this seems intentional to give the film a "gritty" and "realistic" war-movie feel. The print is clean and textures are nice and defined. Overall I was impressed with this terrific image transfer.

Audio

Five audio options are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 also in 48kHz/24-bit, Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in 48kHz/24-bit, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround as well as English Audio Descriptive Dolby Digital 2.0 surround for the visually impaired. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its rocking English DTS-HD audio. As you'd expect this is a thumping, bombastic and thoroughly engrossing audio track. It's loud and it's active as all hell. The dialogue is crisp and clean, the ambient sounds work well and sound natural and the action envelopes the viewer in a non-stop melee of intense sequences. In a word, this track is banging!
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Sony has included some decent extras on this single disc Blu-ray release (another edition is also available that comes packaged with a DVD copy). The extras include an interactive feature, seven featurettes, a collection of bonus trailers and BD-Live access. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

"Command Control" is an interactive feature allowing you to view mini-featurettes/storyboards during the film. In total this feature runs a total of 22 minutes 23 seconds of video footage but includes art and storyboards that allow fans into the planning process of the film, these feature in a pop-up window that allows you additional access to the aspects of the production the featurettes that play are entitled "Battle Points" and include clips on "Staff Sergeant Nantz" and the character, "Marine Behind the Scenes", "Aliens Ambush the Marines", "Battling Unknown Forces", "Technical Sergeant Santos", "Alien Autopsy", "Gas Station Explosion", "Visual FX on the Freeway", "Do You Believe in Aliens?" and "Alien Command and Control" these all offer up some cool perspectives on the production, however aren't long enough or in-depth enough to be satisfying.

The first of the featurettes is entitled "Behind the Battle" (1080p) and runs for 6 minutes 44 seconds, takes a look at the film's premise and on shooting a documentary-style alien invasion war movie. The clip has some decent footage from the production and some interviews, as it's structured like you're typical EPK.

"Aliens in LA" (1080p) featurette is next and runs for 17 minutes 57 seconds, is a slightly meatier extra than the former taking a closer look at the alien design and concepts and the efforts from the multitude of practical and digital artists that brought them to life.

Next up is "Preparing for Battle" (1080p), a featurette running for 5 minutes 15 seconds, is a look at the challenge of prepping for a big budget action film, the cast are taken through the usual motions to get them ready to act as believable Marines on screen.

Following that is "Boot Camp" (1080p), a featurette that runs for 10 minutes 18 seconds, another look at the preparedness of the cast as they undergo a rigorous boot camp.

"Creating L.A. in LA" (1080p) featurette runs for 5 minutes 45 seconds, takes a closer look at the production design crew and having to transform the film's shooting location (Louisiana) into alien-invasion Los Angeles. This is a very cool clip that really need more time to allows fans into the immense process this was.

"Directing the Battle" (1080p) featurette runs for 6 minutes 33 seconds, this takes a look at director Jonathan Liebesman and what he did to convince the studio to make the film with him as director. It's a quick vanity piece on the director, it's entirely skippable.

"The Freeway Battle" (1080p) featurette runs for 5 minutes 18 seconds, and takes a look at the action scene as it was staged and shot, again this could have benefitted from being a bit longer and more detailed.

A collection of bonus trailers (1080p) are included for:

- "Priest" which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Das Boot: The Director's Cut" which runs for 1 minute 10 seconds.
- "Insidious" which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds.
- "Blu-ray 3D" promo which runs for 55 seconds.
- "Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown" which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.
- "The Green Hornet" which runs for 2 minutes 38 seconds.
- "Beastly" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Additionally the disc has BD-Live access for profile 2.0 players only and features:

- "PS3 Wallpaper" download wallpapers for your PS3.
- "Movie IQ" compatible check out the latest trivia.
- "Bonus previews" check out additional titles available from Sony.

Overall

The Film: D Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: C+ Overall: C+

 


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