Battle: Los Angeles Blu-ray Review
The quality of the film aside, Battle: Los Angeles invades the UK with a Region Free Blu-ray which sports a superb 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is excellent throughout and, whilst the characterisation may all be a bit of a blur, the characters themselves certainly aren’t – every soldier; every uniform; and every weapon presented clearly and in a well-defined fashion. Their dirty faces (sometimes the blood and mud levels varying randomly between scenes) showcasing every pore, every hair – Eckhart’s trademark chin never getting as much attention as it does here. A gritty war this may well be, but clarity still prevails – the only apparent softness coming from the poorly-conceived alien invaders themselves. You can’t quite make them out clearly, but still the quality of video presentation does not obscure their cheap, unimaginative appearance. Edge enhancement and DNR are non-existent, and there is a nice, light grain structure, effective at mildly enhancing the gritty edge to the piece, but never in the least bit intrusive. The colour scheme is intentionally quite dusty and faded, but it’s only because of the war-torn setting – and the explosions that light up the piece showcase excellent representation of more vivid tones. Black levels are strong and allow for decent shadowing and superior night sequences, and overall this is a demo quality video presentation – a tremendous-looking movie, even if that doesn’t improve the quality of the material in the slightest bit, at least it’s pleasant to look at.
Bombast in the extreme is what you get here – with what is a powerful and very, very loud track. Thankfully, Battle: LA’s accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers up more than just explosive mayhem, observing even the smaller atmospheric touches extremely well, whilst also delivering on all fronts whenever the action kicks off. Which is pretty damn frequently. Dialogue – from the shouts and screams to the patriotic motivational speeches – comes across clearly and coherently, largely emanating from the frontal array, and delivered with precedence over the rest of the track whenever it is required. Effects range from small arms fire to heavy machine guns to rocket launchers to the alien weapons; echoing around your living room and creating an excellent battlefield soundscape – bullets providing some decent dynamic separation across the array, and allowing the surrounds to literally put you in the thick of things. The score is painfully patriotic too, cheesy in the extreme, and occasionally quite intrusive; but it gets good presentation too. And your LF channel gets a hefty workout – particularly during the scene where the ‘meteors’ are pummelling through the earth’s atmosphere and cutting a swathe through the thrumming Army Chinooks. As with the video presentation, another demo-quality offering.
Mirroring the US release, we get a fair few nice extras included on this reasonably packed offering – the mainstay being a selection of Featurettes, the highlight being the Picture-in-Picture track and the surprise gem being the included demo for the upcoming Playstation 3 game, Resistance 3. It should be noted that, whilst the UK release does not feature a DVD copy of the film, in the US, if you buy the version which comes with a DVD copy, you will not have access to the aforementioned PS3 game – it’s only available on the single-disc edition.
Command Control allows you to watch the movie with a picture in picture insert which plays out during the movie, showcasing behind the scenes footage of the scenes being filmed, interview snippets from the cast and crew discussing the characters and the training regime required to play soldiers, and storyboard and effects comparison. It is the best of all worlds – part Commentary, part Behind the Scenes Featurette, and part effects deconstruction – and fans of the main feature should definitely check this out.
Behind the Battle offers up just less than 6 minutes of behind the scenes snippets overlayed with interview segments from the cast and crew, discussing the premise to the movie. It’s not too fluffy, but it is also not in the least bit substantial.
Aliens in L.A. takes a more substantial 18 minutes to look in detail at the alien opponents brought to life in the movie – both using digital effects and, to a limited extent, practical effects. We get plenty of behind the scenes footage, some green screen work, and lots of crew background information detailing the processes.
Preparing for Battle is a 5-minute look at what the actors went through in order to prepare for their roles, and also at the physical side of the stunts that they had to perform.
Creating L.A. explains how they recreated LA in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (because it was cheaper than actually filming it on location), and the large setpieces that were created, including massive green-screen billboards for effects overlay later on. Running at just under 6 minutes in length, there’s not enough detail here for it to be all that informative, but it’s still a nice look at this aspect behind the scenes.
Directing the Battle is a 6 minute look at why the director got this particular gig, how he convinced the studios to choose him, and what he brought to the mix (nothing new, that’s for sure).
Boot Camp is a further 10 minutes, looking in more detail at the actual training regime, and how it was supposed to add authenticity to the proceedings.
The Freeway Battle spends 5 minutes looking at a fairly important action sequence, with input from the cast and crew.
Perhaps one of the most interesting extras is the Resistance 3 game demo, which will play on your Playstation 3. I’ve only played the first of the Resistance games – because it was the only one with a full-game co-operative mode (the sequel dropped this excellent facility) – but this new entry looks very good indeed, and here we get a good half hour of alien-killing mayhem to get you hooked. Funnily enough, the game is everything the film should have been – with more action and entertainment even in just its limited demo form. Access is through a download code which can be used without inserting the disc.
Finally the disc is rounded off with a selection of Trailers and Previews, and a PS3 theme, which can be downloaded by inserting the disc, and going to the game menu, where you will find a Battle: LA icon.
I can just imagine what the conversation between the studio exec and the creative director might have been:
“We want a sequel to Independence Day, only we haven’t got the rights to it, so we can’t refer to it in any way. Also, we can’t get Will Smith, because we can’t afford him. Oh, and you’ve got a third of the budget. Maybe less.”
“Ok, how about we shoot a grungy, street-based kind of Black Hawk Down – meets – War of the Worlds thing. Lots of Bourne shaky-cam. Oh, and I’ll recycle the designs for the Cyclons in Battlestar Galactica. Save us on effects. Nobody will remember what they look like anyway.”
“Some good ideas, son, but all I really want to know is – will the music crescendo into uplifting moments every few minutes and allow somebody to do something patriotic?”
“I can absolutely guarantee that you will swell with pride, sir.”
Battle: LA was a pretty sizeable Box Office success, so it must have done something right. Personally, I think the word ‘battle’ in the title helped tap into the minds of many of the predominantly male target audience and grab their interest. It certainly piqued mine. Unfortunately, this is actually massively recycled, seen-it-all-before-and-better, sub-b-movie territory. Seriously, strip away a few minutes of Big Screen effects and you have something Channel Five would be proud of. Not quite so bad it’s good (like Belly of the Beast), this is just a bad movie, and I suspect it’d take a fair amount of alcohol to keep you going through this mess.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get spectacular video and audio, and a pretty hefty selection of extras, which include the much-coveted demo for Resistance 3, a game which will likely entertain a great deal more (and a great deal more effectively) than the main feature. So if you did like this movie, then this is a superb package to pick up. If you were drawn in by the word ‘battle’ in the title, then consider a rental, and watch out for involuntary salutes during the motivational speeches.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99