First of all I must say that I’m obviously a big big Scifi fan and am open for pretty much everything in that field. Therefore I had some expectations for this one. Anyway… the first big question that came up for me was the following: What does it say about our species if we manage to have more effecient weaponry than an alien race, that mastered intergalactic travel and is trying to conquer our planet? It pretty much says that we’re kinda f***ed up as a species. That’s just my humble opinion. But lets talk about this movie now. Beware! Spoilers sprinkled in here and there.
When I saw the trailers for this film I was excited. It looked like something I kind of wished ‘Independence Day’ would have been back in 1996. An alien invasion seen from the eyes of people who are right in the middle of it. Following them through this mess and finding a solution to it all. This movie is that. But does it have the guts to go all the way down to show a realistic picture of an alien invasion?
Well, partly it succeeds. The first 15 minutes of the film really manage to do it all right. The build up, up until the point where the actual invasion starts, is very well done. The story stays close on the military side of things. We don’t see any civilian reaction to what’s happening. Missed a civilian point of view a bit but you can’t have everything in it if you want to stay focussed. There are a lot of ‘WTF’ faces when you see these soldiers watch on tv what’s going on on the beaches, when the invasion starts to roll. That’s suspense right there. They manage to capture a feeling that must be comparable to what you have when you know you go into combat. The only difference in that movie is that our soldiers have no idea what they’re up against. So we are with them. We also want to know what’s going on. The movie manages us to side the guys in the film and we’re ready to go out there with them.
Then we’re out there. And I don’t want to pray down the story of the movie here since it’s really pretty simple. We follow that group of marines on their tour of duty to rescue a few civilians from a abandoned police station. Their mission, of course, is to rescue these people and bring them into safety. On their way to that station they make first contacts with the aliens. The action kicks in and delivers a good job throughout the movie. A lot of bang and boom and shazaam. As well as shaky cam like there is no tomorrow. That’s a little annoying at certain points. Later on we follow our marines fighting some more heavy stuff from the aliens. In the end then our hand full marines left, bring down a command center. Hooahh!!! Well done marines! If this sounds like an JOIN THE FORCES commercial then yes, it so does.
The movie tries to bring us a little closer to all the guys in the beginning. That are like 10 minutes they invested to explain like 7 or 8 characters. The only guy we are kind of able to build a connection with it Aaron Eckharts character. Who does a fine job in this movie playing a worn out marine with quite a history. It’s not his best but he’s making the best of what he got. All the other people are only there to get wasted. You instantly know it when you see them. But you don’t know who gets shot and when. When it happens you only think, “alright, how many are left now again?”.
This movie is always compared to ‘Black Hawk Down’. And you can see the signature/similarities of that storyline written all over it. Only the insurgents are replaced by alien creatures. So the movie falls apart when it actually should get rolling. And you have still an hour and a half to go. There are quite a few things bothering me. One thing is that our marines are trained soldiers, right? How can it be that they’re constantly getting ambushed from higher ground? The aliens are always on top of them, shooting down. Of course our marines therefore have a bad tactical position and start to lose people. That happens to them more than once. Why? I mean… send some people up there to clear the damn roofs of the houses dammit! And why doesn’t that squad have a sniper? To clear the roofs for example! These guys looked so disorganized. It left a bad taste in my brain.
Another thing is that the movie is FAR too clean. I guess they wanted to make it mass compatible to get the most possible audience to see it. But you know what? Shame on you! You ruined the most significant parts a movie like this should have! Blood! Violence! Gore! Dirt! All you get to see here are a few scratches! It really takes you out of the movie. I mean… there is an invasion going on. Creatures roam the streets, making no difference, shooting everything that moves. I just saw the movie and cannot remember seeing a civilian body lying on one of the streets there. It’s ridiculous. The film loses so much credibility because of that. It needs to be dirty and violent and bloody! The whole scenario screams for that.
Lets talk about the aliens. First of all, from an artistic point of view, I liked the look of them. The CG works really good and I don’t have a single complaint about that. But CG nowadays isn’t a big problem anymore. On a large scale production like this one… CG is the last thing to worry about. What you have to worry about is if, even the most awesome CG, has no character to it. The creatures in this movie so damn don’t have anything. They’re literally just there to give targets to shoot for our marines. When the movie starts we don’t know sh*t about them. And we sure enough don’t know more about them when the credits roll. Hol-Eee-Crap. Why is it so hard to give CG stuff character these days? Just write in some scenes where they slaughter some civilians on the streets! That would make them evil! (Wait, that would mean violence, gore and blood…) We would hate them! But no! All we see them do is mindlessly blowing up stuff. Of course there is that helicopter scene… but hey… that helicopter is a military vehicle and valid target. Can’t blame them for removing that one can’t we? It’s almost as if we are making all the VFX more and more astounding but totally forget to give that stuff a reason, a character. And no I don’t blame the CG/VFX folks for this. They just do what they’re told to do. It’s just miserable writing. Missed opportunites all over the place.
Back to the things I started the review with. It’s actually not a too far fetched scenario when you’re thinking about it. And I don’t think the writers had that in mind when they wrote that story. Just the idea of an alien race who mastered traveling through space doesn’t make them the war-masters of the universe. One of my favourite books of all time, “The Forever War”, already had something similar going. So the scenario is not soooo superbly unrealistic. Nonetheless you would expect these aliens to be somewhat deadly.
My, that are a lot of bad things listed there! However, the movie is still entertaining. It surely has its moments. Even if you don’t give a lot for the characters or the aliens, you still want to know where it all leads to. The finale is totally stupid but still fun to watch. Aaron Eckhart’s character delivers a small foundation of a character and helps us to stay focussed. Even if it all scrolls down the usual military cliche moments we know from so many other war movies. I can’t say how much of a rewatchability is in this one but for a first watch it is a nice ride. But definitely nothing ground breaking too.