Posts Tagged ‘Battle: Los Angeles’

Aaron Eckhart is more than just abs and cleft, so why isn’t he a household name?

Comic-Con-2013-Aaron-Eckhart-s-I-Frankenstein-Gets-3-New-PostersReel Guys By Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin – Metro Canada

SYNOPSIS: I, Frankenstein, Aaron Eckhart’s martial arts update of the famous Mary Shelley story wasn’t screened for the press in time to meet our deadline, so after a long conversation with our editor the Reel Guys have decided to do a column on Eckhart’s oeuvre. At least that’s how we saw it. Our boss has a different idea. “As your editor I demand a thorough dissection of Eckhart’s abs,” she wrote before adding, “More than pretty, Eckhart is.” What follows is our humble attempt to mix cinematic business with our editor’s pleasure.

RC: Mark, Aaron Eckhart isn’t exactly a household name, but he has appeared in some very big movies. He’s the only live-action actor in the Batman films to play both Harvey Dent and his villainous alter-ego Two-Face. The Dark Knight is by far and away his biggest hit, followed by his star-making turn in Erin Brockovich but despite those box office busters we don’t talk about the handsome actor in the same breath as a-listers like Cruise, di Caprio or Smith. He has the above- mentioned absn and is versatile to star in everything from video game action movies like Battle: Los Angeles to hardcore dramas like Rabbit Hole and yet doesn’t get the same recognition as many of his peers. What’s your take on him?

Mark: You mean the cleft that walked like a man? I could probably fit my grad thesis in there! Eckhart exploded onto my radar with two films he did in the late Nineties, both by the cynical playwright Neil Labute: In the Company Men, and Your Friends and Neighbors. In both films he plays despicable, curdled, almost unwatchably misogynistic men. The key word here is almost. As rotten as he behaves in these movies, there’s an inchoate grace under the surface that redeems the characters, and it’s a testimony to his acting skills that he can keep us watching. And that cleft.

RC: Some like the cleft, some the abs. I like his versatility. In a year span between 2010 and ’11 he released three very different movies. In Rabbit Hole and Nicole Kidman were a couple trying to deal with the death of their four-year-old son. They are at different stages of their grief, but they share a couple of things; a terrible sense of loss and an inability to know how to deal with it. Terrific stuff. Next was the alien invader movie Battle Los Angeles followed by The Rum Diaries where he played a slick PR person. Three different movies and three very different performances. Maybe we have a hard time defining him because he constantly does wild career flip flops.

MB: Or because there’s an opacity to him that allows him to play so many compromised characters, allowing us to project our feelings onto him. Look at one of his finest roles, as the tobacco lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking. He’s so slick, so shifty, we don’t judge him, precisely because we don’t really know him. A quality that’s great for an actor. but less so for a movie star. I really liked him in Rabbit Hole and Rum Diaries, too, but his mainstream work doesn’t register with me as much. Except for his cleft.

RC: He’s has made a number of movies I wouldn’t recommend for the big screen but work well enough as rentals. Two action films, Erased and Suspect Zero are very VOD friendly and feature many cleft hero shots.

MB: Or two romantic comedies that would have been disastrous without him: No Reservations and Love Happens. He doesn’t do nude scenes in them, though, because in close-up you couldn’t tell if it were his backside or his cleft.


2011_battle_los_angeles_011Given the content of the film “Battle: Los Angeles,” the new alien invader movie starring Aaron Eckhart, it’s surprising it isn’t subtitled “Marine Recruitment Movie.”

The movie begins with the hoariest of clichés, the battle weary Marine, Michael Nantz (Eckhart), thrown into the biggest fight of his life just hours after he has announced his retirement. His mission is to lead a group of soldiers against some well-armed ETs who have captured every major port city in the world. As the title suggests, his job is to save Los Angeles.

The first twenty-five minutes or so of the film is spent with the Marine characters; getting to know the folks we’re going to be spending the next two hours with. But instead of meeting believable people we are handed a roll call direct form Central Casting with dialogue that sounds like it was written by an actual G.I. Joe doll. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s relentless shakey-cam tries to distract the eye from the total lack of anything interesting going on with the characters but simply clutters the screen with jittery images.

Then things start to blow up and for the next hour-and-a-half there is a fairly constant video game barrage of bullets and bombs and dialogue like, “You kill anything that is not human!”

The movie’s pace certainly picks up from here, but the story doesn’t get much more interesting. Liebesman breaks a few of the rules regarding alien action movies. Firstly: He shows too many humans, not enough aliens. We can see humans anywhere—look out a window! Turn on the TV! Aliens, not so much. Too often in “Battle: Los Angeles” the extraterrestrials are obscured by smoke or so far in the distance it’s hard to get a good look at them.

Secondly, and this doesn’t just apply to alien invasion flicks but to all action movies, show us the action. Sure there is lots of action on screen and the soundtrack is filled with kabooms and pows, but the images are so frenetic it’s often hard to tell who is shooting who.

Lastly, all the great alien invasion movies are actually about something other than aliens. Recently, for instance, “District 9” was a potent mix of space invaders and apartheid. Any search for subtext here, however, will be met with disappointment, as “Battle: Los Angeles” simply plays like an only sporadically entertaining Marines propaganda film.