Red Riding Hood and Battle: Los Angeles

You might wonder, "Russell, why are you reviewing Red Riding Hood and Battle: Los Angles in the same post?" And I would respond, "Mind your own business! This is my review!"

Okay, not really.  What I would say is that in one sense these are two diametrically opposite films, but in another, they're really quite similar.

Red Riding Hood is director Catherine Hardwicke's attempt to recapture her Twilight glory (if you can stomach the use of the word "glory" when refering to Twilight). This tale of a small town in the snowy woods has a young girl as a protagonist who is being courted by two very different guys, both of whom are hot, and neither of whom is particularly interesting. (Sound familiar?) But at the same time, the film is trying to be a twisty-turny murder mystery. "Who is the wolf?!"

I certainly can't fault Amanda Seyfried. (What big eyes she has!) She turns in as good a performance as she can with the teen-soap/fairy-tale dialoge. It's her job to use those enormous eyes to be FRIGHTENED in every other shot. Gary Oldman also steals every scene he's in as a clergyman with a dark history with werewolves and some unsavory methods for getting the information he needs. (Metaphor for the War on Terror anyone?)

They get all the bits in you need: the creepy scene with the Grandma and her teeth, the actual red riding hood, the heroic woodsman. But I really couldn't have cared less about the love triangle, and while the reveal of the mystery was pretty interesting, it still didn't have the visceral thrill you want when people are getting slashed by a metamorphosizing wolf. Everything was too slick and clean and Hollywoodized to have any real horrific punch. All in all, this movie pretty much blew.

Battle: Los Angeles, on the other hand, is the anti-Hollywood film of the month. For every TV-drama boring camera move in Red Riding Hood, there's a queasy shaky-cam shot in Battle: LA. For every character with "depth" in RRH, there's a one-dimensional military movie cliche character in BLA. And to balance the fear of government overreaching that percolates under RRH, there's a blatant rah-rah patriotism that suffuses every frame of BLA.

Also like the previous film, Battle: LA is a fusion of two very different kinds of movies. In this case, it's even more on the nose: Independence Day and Black Hawk Down. While this melange is handled far more deftly in this movie than in Hardwicke's attempt, the end result is still disappointing when compared to the film's inspirations.

Aaron Eckhart does a nice enough job as Staff Sergeant Nantz, the aging Marine who was just about to retire when ALIENS ATTACK! This is definitley a grunt's eye view of an interstellar conflict, with a lot of gunfire and precious little sci-fi. (Thankfully it doesn't suck the way the similarly themed Skyline did. Man, was that a bad film!)

On the whole I did enjoy BLA, though I didn't love it. The dialogue wasn't half as bad as some of the reviews I've read would suggest. And the effects were stunning. I loved in particular how gritty and un-sleek the alien's technology was. At times, it seemed not to even work particularly well.

Just to finish up the comparison of the films, there's also a couple of, to me, glaring logical errors that throw a real wrench into both movies. Note to the screenwriters:

If you're trying to figure out who in a small town is a werewolf, just put all the people in one room and wait for the full moon. Whichever one turns into a wolf is the one you're looking for.

If you're trying to steal water from a planet filled with warlike people, don't land near the cities where the people are. Drop down into the middle of the largest ocean and suck up all the water you need before people know you're even there.

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