Sunday 20 April 2014

Films: Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

I hadn't seen Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland before and knew little about it: I was surprised to read that it is one of the highest grossing films of all time, earning around $1 billion at the box office (five or six times what it cost to make). Although I was of course familiar with the book as a child I hadn't read it since then so, although I recalled odd details, I didn't know what to expect, except a lot of nonsense! I read through the Wiki summaries afterwards to see how the plots compared.

The first point is that the film is not simply an adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but takes elements from the sequel (Through the Looking-Glass) plus adds some original ones and spins a rather more coherent story around the mix. While the result still contains a lot of surreal nonsense – I wasn't disappointed in that respect – it makes for a reasonably understandable tale. The acting is good with some well-known names (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway to name but a few) and the film is visually very rich and appealing. Not really my cup of tea, but entertaining enough to be worth watching.


I watched Battle: Los Angeles with low expectations, supposing it to be another juvenile popcorn movie like Battleship. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised: it is instead a grittily realistic war movie that just happens to involve an alien invasion. The hero is a war-scarred US Marine Staff Sargeant (Aaron Eckhart) who is about to retire when clusters of "meteorites" landing in the oceans next to major cities turn out to be alien invaders. He leads a squad on a mission to rescue civilians trapped in a part of Los Angeles due to be heavily bombed by the USAF to clear it of aliens. His task is not helped by the fact that he has gained a reputation for losing his men in combat. Naturally, all does not go smoothly and what follows is a violent, confused running battle with the aliens not even seen for some time, except for brief glimpses.

I've not been a soldier (let alone a US Marine) so I may be mistaken, but the combat action seemed convincing to me – especially in its early, confused stages – until the finale involving laser-guided Copperhead missiles streaking horizontally across the sky and leaving flame and smoke trails. In fact the Copperhead is a guided 155mm artillery shell without a rocket motor and would have arrived in a downward trajectory at far too high a velocity to be visible (obviously unacceptable to Hollywood!). Despite this quibble it is a solid film, worth seeing if you like SF and enjoy war movies.

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