Ordinarily, the title of this film would be enough to make me stay away from the multiplex. However, a drought of films is one of the worst things to happen to a movie lover. Two weeks without a film in the big dark room addled my decision making abilities and I decided to give it a try. Big mistake. Simply put, World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles (BLA(h)) is just an appallingly bad sci-fi action film. It is shamelessly derivative, "borrowing" rather liberally from several better films. The plot is a rip off from Independence Day. The cinema vérité technique is “reminiscent” of Cloverfield and there are bits of War of the Worlds and Aliens thrown in for good measure. To put it mildly, there is not a speck of originality anywhere in sight in this monstrosity.
It is difficult to describe the plot maintaining a straight face. What is thought to be a meteor shower turns into an alien invasion on major coastal cities around the world. Obviously, they are here for our natural resources. Sound familiar? We meet war weary, conflicted but super competent Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), his senior Lt. Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) and their band of All-American boneheads carved out of cardboard who just happen to be the perfect mix of Whites, Blacks, Latinos and Asians. One of them could even have a career as a double for Eminem. Their mission is it to evacuate civilians (which include Michael Pena, Bridget Moynahan and of course, three little kids) from Los Angeles before a “Bomb Drop” destroys the area completely. On the way, they are ambushed by aliens and run into another bunch of soldiers which includes the fireball Michelle Rodriguez. Together, they must fight the Battle of Los Angeles and face the unknown enemy.
The script of the movie is painfully clichéd with several cringe inducing dialogues in each and every scene. The attempts at “character building” are just painful to watch and the dramatic sequences are laughably bad. Lt. Martinez is basically a nicer version of Lt. Gorman from Aliens. The languorous pacing is another problem. It takes too long to deliver too little. The entire first half hour is wasted in introducing all the characters. The film struggles to keep the audience's attention throughout. A movie like this should ideally have clocked in at under 100 minutes instead of the bloated two hours run time.
Most importantly however, BLA breaks one crucial rule of alien invasion film: the aliens must be formidable and awesome. One of the most brilliant bits of Independence Day was that the aliens were just as mean, diabolical and menacing as they looked. Here, the aliens look dumb, act absurdly and despite all their cool gadgetry, woefully lack the ability to aim. Their designs and conception are ugly, largely unoriginal and clearly "inspired". Also, the wastage of the talented cast, particularly Michelle Rodriguez, arguably the finest female action star in Hollywood today, is just criminal.
The production work is good, but not great. The hand held camera approach neither provides the visceral, immersive experience that it aims for nor does it create the tension and intensity that was there in Cloverfield. The special effects are strictly ordinary. In terms of action sequences, they fall into two categories: routine and dull or absolutely nonsensical. There are two notable exceptions to this though: the petrol pump scene and the battle on the freeway. Those moments are surprisingly inventive and pretty damn cool.
Ultimately, BLA is an unoriginal, badly scripted and weakly executed sci-fi action film that is an insult to its genre. It is dumb, predictable and a rare kind of film: one in which I strongly considered walking out of within the first fifteen minutes. One may say that the movie will appeal to hardcore action fans. However, any true fan of action movies would know the great ones well and easily see this film for what it is: a ham-fisted, loud and bloated cog job.