Two big budget alien-invasion movies came out earlier this year. Skyline came out first and did poorly at the box office, being roundly panned by critics. Battle: Los Angeles came out later and did gangbuster business at the box office, although it too was roundly panned. Both movies focus on Los Angeles (what a surprise from the City of Self-Absorption). Both movies involve technologically sophisticated invaders who just arrive and wreak havoc. Many special effects are involved.
I’ve seen both and I’m perplexed as to why Skyline did so poorly and Battle: Los Angeles did so well. Hands down, Skyline is a vastly superior movie. Its story is just interesting enough to hold your attention and the special effects, alien ships, and monsters are of the highest quality. The characters are incredibly annoying and often stupid, but what would you expect of a movie that centers around people living in Los Angeles…richness and depth? I’ve seen Skyline twice, and while I have a reputation for watching trashy movies more than once, this one is actually rewatchable. Why? Because it’s got a lot of cool stuff in it. Duh.
Battle: Los Angeles is just an offensive mess, the worst sort of military porn, filled with dumbass soldiers, lots of guns and bullets and grenades. Whooppee! It’s a movie that wants to marry Blackhawk Down with Saving Private Ryan and select dumb scenes from Transformers 2. It’s a noisy, visually uninteresting bore. It amazes me that in 2011, it’s actually possible to make a boring alien-invasion movie.
Where Skyline takes enormous glee from showing us alien ships and monsters as they clobber LA, Battle: Los Angeles shows us practically nothing, and stages all that smoky, foggy, hazy nothingness as if we’re at the Battle of Normandy or some other iconic WWII location. In Los Angeles. Yeah, right. Battle‘s approach would be fine if the characters weren’t all precisely the same, if they weren’t all just dumbass soldier hicks doing that American rah!-rah! nonsense that American moviegoers seem to crave. Sometimes, I wondered if the Marines/Navy/Air Force/Army hadn’t funded this movie as the most expensive recruiting commercial in history. It really is that stupid.
Movies about war have to be about more than war. Platoon, Casualties of War, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, you name it — those movies are about human beings in one state of hell or another. Battle: Los Angeles, which could have been as silly and empty headed as Skyline, instead tries to be (gag) poignant. It’s a pretentious piece of shit and I hated every second of it (please note that after 90 boring minutes, I just turned it off).
So, looking for pretty lights, great destruction and death, and humans getting stepped on by giant armored aliens? Stick with Skyline. It doesn’t have a self-important bone in its CGI body. Maybe that’s why it works so well.