BATTLE LOS ANGELES

Someone forgot to give Jonathan Liebesman the memo: “NB: Shaky cameras are played out and dated.” Set in August 2011, Battle Los Angeles (no colon in the screen title) feels like its release has been delayed since sometime in the previous decade. Its relentlessly unstable camera is translated fully intact from that bygone era (for which I can’t necessarily blame DP Lukas Ettlin, who has to take orders himself), and its vocabulary is likewise a vestige of the Iraq War.

Approximately the only interesting thing about Battle Los Angeles is that it is much better than Avatar at making the audience identify with the native resistance of a foreign invading force that TV analysts repeatedly insist is after local natural resources (in this case, water).

It does this rather simplistically but effectively by using all of the familiar cliches of American war movies to re-enact the insurgent exercises of the “other side.” One soldier is called John Wayne after resourcefully blowing up a gas station (the Gulf war’s Kuwaiti oil fires?) and another soldier heroically blows himself up — while in a bus, lest the point be too subtle.

With this subtext, the regular doses of Marine Corps hooah-ing, morale-raising speeches, and inspiring music are not so much ironic, as earnest employments of the familiar tropes of propaganda to inspire sympathy with the perspective of those usually considered to be fighting against the forces depicted.

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