Sunday, March 13, 2011

Saving Battle Los Angeles with a Single Kiss

I went to see Battle Los Angeles on Saturday for my sixth Wedding Anniversary and first movie out since delivering a baby in July. Back in July we saw Knight and Day which also had a very high quotient of things blowing up and bad guys with guns. However, according to my husband, Knight and Day is a Chick Flick because there's a guy and girl and some kissing in addition to all the bad guys. Battle Los Angeles is not a Chick Flick at all. No, it is a Man Movie with a capital M. My previous standard for bad Man Movies I never want to sit through again is Master and Commander with Alamo close behind. These are well-made, gripping movies that make it hard to look away (read: not easy to knit through!), but they lack the underlying message of hope I require from my fiction. However, all is not lost! Battle Los Angeles actually had a lot of potential, and Hollywood can easily save movies like Battle Los Angles and ensure that more female viewers actually enjoy their date night movies by taking a cue from leading Romantic Suspense authors.

Allow me to start by summarizing Battle Los Angles for you: "Gee I'm getting old and should think of--" Holy crap! Explode! Machine Guns! Grunt! Grunt! More Explode! Never ending machine gun fire! Oh no! A Very Sad Thing! Grunt! Lots of Grunting! Rally the Troops With 30 seconds of Real Speech! Explode! Explode! Grunt! Grunt! "Back to war men!" There is about 4 minutes of movie where there is not gunfire.

There's very little real dialogue as it's all grunt-boom-grunt-shoot-grunt, but there is a very hunky aging marine who has dark and tortured potential as he's facing retirement and carrying the burden of loosing a whole team of men on a previous mission. He's surrounded by a group of wise-cracking younger marines, a number of whom seem to have interesting backstories that we catch a glimpse of in the 2 minutes before things start exploding. And we have two potential heroines, Sexy Civilian Lady, a veterinarian who shares a little spark with Hero Man when they dismember an alien. I think she's supposed to be the token love interest, but we also have stock sassy female military officer who has access to some key intelligence and while new to field work, she has the potential to save the day.

The easiest way to fix this movie is with a single kiss. Or just a truly smoldering look. I'll call this the Julia Spencer Fleming treatment. The camera could linger on Sexy Vet and our hero as she volunteers to help him figure out how to kill the nasty baddies. He's impressed with her gumption, and all we need are a few more intense looks to amp this up. A lingering touch as he helps her evacuate. There's an awkward scene in the movie where she tells him he's injured--a RS writer would make this scene more than just a transition to more bad-ass explosion. She could patch him up with her basic medical skills, allowing more smoldering glances and rising tension. Lots of this-isn't-the-time-or-place looks and another meaningful touch or two, especially when A Very Sad Thing Happens, would be all it would take to add sexual tension and a genuine romance without loosing a single explosion or grunted order. Then, at the very end, the hero and heroine's eyes could meet in blatant acknowledgement of what could be. This would be an awesome ending with sequel potential, but we could also have the classic ending of heroine sees Big Dirty and Alive Marine Man still alive. She catches his eyes, he pauses, she pauses, then suddenly she's in his arms with a long emotional kiss. Camera pans out. Roll the credits with the way the movie currently ends. Lots more people would leave the theater happy, guaranteed. Because going out to kick more alien butt isn't as satisfying without something new worth fighting for. (Julia Spencer Fleming's next book, One Was a Soldier is coming out soon, and it promises to have a lot fewer explosions, and a lot more emotional impact, as do the rest of her awesome Miller's Kill series.)

A bit more complex fix would be to address the pacing issue of the movie and give it the Cindy Gerad/Suzanne Brockmann treatment. In the Suzanne Brockmann treatment, Sexy Hero Man gets more backstory with a flashback or flashforward that shows him at his most heroic, and his relationship with the men is explored a little more as the action slows down--they find a safe place to regroup and instead of grunting, they come up with a new strategy. Sexy Vet Lady is a distraction, and hero knows he's far too broken for her, but still he admires her gumption. Explode. Action. Lots of Gunfire. The world is ending, but there's a tiny sliver of hope. Oh no hope is snatched away! Plan B! We'll have to hole up here for X number of hours. The explode-and-shoot fans grunt off in search of more popcorn, but now we have a chance for a little relationship development. She tends to his wounds, offers an idea that at first appears crazy, then seems like it might work. He fights with his men. She goes after him. We have something more than language and blood to justify that PG-13 rating, then it's back to the explode and shoot that the manly men paid for. Because we're doing this Brockmann style, we have some nice subplots among the grunts as they work together to save everyone's butts and some subplot romantic tension between the Spunky Airforce Girl and the Marine Who Doesn't Want To Die a Virgin. Lots more explosions, then the movie can have its current ending with an added "why don't you find me later, Big Daddy" glance between Hero and Sexy Vet Lady. Everyone goes home happy. (We're days away from Suzanne Brockmann's new book, Breaking the Rules, where things will almost certainly explode, guns will be fired, and everyone will indeed go home happy. )

If we handed the script to Cindy Gerard, she would follow Brockmann's lead and keep all the band-of-brothers male bonding, but she'd have our intrepid warriors even more cut-off from the rest of the military as they realize that all that patriotic music doesn't mean a thing if the USMC isn't getting the job done. It's time to go rogue against the baddies from outer space, and Hero is just the man to do it. Too bad he's got hot young spunky Air Force Girl in his face telling him otherwise. We get a nice little romantic triangle tension with Lt. Red Shirt in the mix and the Lady Vet, but as the clock winds down, Hero needs Air Force Girl to help him save the world--and himself. They end up holed up again. This is really key. Constant explosions are not conducive to anything other than hearing loss and indigestion. But, since the Man Movie ticket payers need some Boom Boom, we'll send a team of men out to create some havoc while we give Hero and Air Force Girl a chance to work together. They fight. More things explode. He has a moment with Lady Vet, but realizes that no one that soft will ever get him. Spunky Girl gets in his face. They have a longer moment, and she gives him a little top secret intel. Lots more explosions. Lots of shooting. Air Force Girl and Marine Man going rogue save the day. Movie can end as it currently does with the addition of one sexy look between the two, maybe a butt slap that's a little more than go-team-go. (Cindy Gerard's latest heroine who kicks as much butt as her hero is out now with Risk No Secrets, with another book coming in July, and she too promises to send everyone home happy.)

Hollywood could make life much easier (and profitable!) by simply consulting more romance authors who know what audiences REALLY want. Note that with ticket prices now around $10, rather than sitting through Battle Los Angles, you can easily justify stopping by the bookstore on the way home with something *just* for you.


  1. Sounds like this screen writer should have seen RED. Although the hunky marines (young and old) take of their shirts?

  2. Thanks for stopping by! No, the hunky marines do not take off their shirts--not even once. And their shirts are unnecessarily baggy. I should have added the Pamela Clare version to my suggestions above whereby they blow through the PG-13 rating. There's a number of head wounds and limb wounds that just cry out for someone to whip off a shirt or ten to provide first aid. Had hunky marine spent half the movie in search of a shirt, I guarantee I would have left the theater happier!