Dear Battle: Los Angeles,
I don’t care what the others think: I am in love with you.
From your goofy, sincere and clichéd dialogue to your well worn character archetypes, I find almost every facet of you that seems to have turned off mainstream critics absolutely wonderful. Even your use of the dreaded shaky-cam struck me as more appropriate and well-executed than almost any other movie that utilized the technique. There is so much to love about you, and you entertain so eagerly and easily, that I find it hard to understand the ire leveled in your direction. In truth, you’re the type of movie that would have given me and my friends endless hours of imagination-based sticks-and-dirt playtime back in my youth.
Allow me, then, to address this letter in the form of an open declaration of my adoration of you, flaws and all, in the face of those who would decry your very existence. Let love never need to defend itself, but when it must, let it do so bravely and honestly.
One of the most frequent slanders I find people repeating in relation to you, Battle, is that you are a mess of clichés and stereotypes. This is an accusation I find at once laughable and also vaguely hypocritical. What, exactly, were people expecting from a movie that professed to be Black Hawk Down meetsIndependence Day? And if you live up to that straightforward and frankly awesome goal, why should we care if you do so by using some old-hat storytelling devices? Were the critics that lambast you not, after all, the same people who gave Avatar a pass on its hackneyed dialogue and characters? And she was twice your size and four times your budget! Why were her sins so easy to gloss over while yours remain a scarlet letter upon your dress?
The easy answer would be that Avatar appealed to the more liberal sentiments of the critical establishment, while you are brazenly pro-military and – by transference – proudly American. This answer is too easy, though. What I think truly gave Avatar an edge over you was that it claimed to be technologically new, and therefore was allowed its heavy helping of cheese solely because of its presentation and pretensions of being a bold new step in the medium of cinematic storytelling.
Pretension, though, is one of the things I detest most in a movie, which is another reason that I find the other major complaint regarding your company ridiculous.
Some say that you are too sincere, too hokey and un-ironic. The same argument above applies here.Avatar wore its heart equally as proudly on its sleeve. The difference that I see, though, is that you use your sincerity as a means of attaching us to people who believe in a set of principles that most of my fellow hipster 20-somethings might never understand.
Your principle characters, the Marines sent into Santa Monica to save stranded civilians, are a group of men who have signed their lives over to the defense and protection of a nation, and now the world. They are, to borrow a phrase, a band of brothers. Their overly-emotional response to every loss, to every setback, drives home their bond. In a world attacked by aliens from space, is there really room for small emotions? Is stoicism so preferable to emotiveness? Have we as an audience become so cynical that we can’t let out the occasional “ooh-rah!” alongside a Marine fighting aliens in the streets of Los Angeles? I hope not.
These archetypal characters – the green lieutenant, the retiring leader, the soon-to-be married soldier, the rookie on his first tour – allow for a quick and sturdy introduction, lacking in frills or confusion, allowing us to more quickly associate with the men and more rapidly move into battle.
I shouldn’t even, by now, have to tell you that I found you to be an exciting, gripping, edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster of type-A masculine performances (even from a woman) and rough-and-tumble special effects.
If I could criticize you on one thing, it would be that I can’t help but want to follow you back into the fray.
So be not afraid, Battle: Los Angeles. Though there are those among us who will prefer your older hippy of a sister, with her expensive accessories, her gaudy makeup and her endless earth-mother moralizing, I have no doubt that you are exactly what the rest of us need: a scrappy, energetic, rousing film that never slows down, never disappoints, and gives anyone looking for a straightforward fun time at the movies exactly what they are looking for.
With endless thanks for being exactly what you claim to be,
Brian J. Roan