They Appear Mechanical in Nature: The Battle L.A. Trailer

In anticipation of going to see Battle: Los Angeles tomorrow, here’s my painstaking trawl through the minutiae of the trailer(s).

First off, the trailer sounds an Inceptional horn as the atavistic preamble unfolds; this, coupled with the deep concrete and metal scrapes of the later action scenes, are more or less what I’m going to get out of the film: resonant rectal thrills.

It’s like 3D for your ass.

*   *   *

Contemporary Hollywood trailers are wonderful things; real works of design that are frequently better than the films themselves — and not just because the films are invariably shit. And if trailer-making is an art, then reading them is a discipline.

Usually they make a film look good through ellipsis, and often they compact material into effective nonsense.

goodwednesdayMORNINGninetyfourpointfivewiththesurfrider(morning)surf report

They’re great.

*   *   *

OK, what do we know? Aaron Eckhart is a soldier, who may or may not surf. He tends to stop running as others continue, and to be the last out of the room. This is useful, because it presents a soldier with whom normal people can associate.

A man and a woman interact; this story takes place on Earth.

How to Survive: Less beer, more calcium.

There are other soldiers, who will perish. It will be sad and frightening, but exciting. A man will put a beer bottle on an aerial or aerial-like stick:

This was in the trailer. The trailer.

It will seem more reasonable couched within the feature.

*   *   *

Then what seems like meteors begin to hit. One of the most easily-overlooked, but ultimately promising shots is this:

Typically the focus of such an image would be big and red and in the middle of the screen; here, we’re directed to something that we still can’t see. The implication is that the technology within the movie can’t sufficiently communicate the subject of the image; this is, of course, a strategic failure — since CGI can visualize whatever you want — and hints at an intelligent (or at least affective) use of obstruction and limitation toward ‘realist’ ends, rather than a direct, literal use of special effects. This seems to be in keeping with the film’s handheld tactic, and in opposition to both one of Battle‘s precursors, Independence Day, and more recent CGI peers like 2012.

Then there’s the sighting of what’s presumably an alien figure.


OK, that's too much calcium.

Once again we have the faux limitation of in-film technology (and distance too). Oppose this to the now-standard whooshing CGIzed camera movements — along an exploding bypass, across a pimped-up battle scene, down Gollum’s ureter — c’est de rigueur.

Adorably the above reminds me of the fantabulous Twilight Zone in which William Shatner spots a gremlin on the wing of his plane.

*   *   *

So it’s not in any trailer I could locate to embed, but in the one I keep seeing there’s the absolute line of the century.

(VO) Man: (astounded) We’ve lost communications with Tokyo…!

It’s unsettling how something that last week was joyously impaired is now, due to real-world tragedy, incredibly poignant.


"We've lost communications with Tokyo... we're going to try calling its Mom."

It remains to be seen how the film will seem in light of these events; at the best of times the level of tact and taste within a Hollywood film depicting any kind of misfortune requires near-monastic desensitization.

Anyway, the trailer rolls on, and survivors are found — “Five of us… three kids… so we’re a hundred times more likely to get through this in a 12a…” — and in one of the most rip-roaringly flawed moments in the trailer they run outside to climb aboard a helicopter. Only the helicopter hasn’t got enough room for five people, and they take off.



Even worse, they might be the same children that wrote the dialogue.

It seems they’ve missed the helicopter to safety, and all is lost. But not to worry:

They would have died anyway, like in every other film. I can only think of I am Legend off the top of my head, but it’s a hard press for Battle to pitch this kind of magical consequence in realist terms.

But the world doesn’t stop; Bridget Moynahan’s carer-character scrolls by, pulling a face we’ll be needing narrative to explain.

It is in fact an expression she uses throughout the trailer, and one that may well be familiar.

Just me then…

*   *   *

And that’s about that. Michelle Rodriguez is in it — I don’t know who plays her though — someone gets dragged away, someone told me the aliens look shit — and then there’s this little coda at the end:


"What was that noise...?"

I think we all know where this is going.


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