Based on early pictures and reports, Battle: Los Angeles is shaping up to be one of the better action/sci-fi films that will be released in 2011.
Today, before their big Hall H presentation, actors Michelle Rodriguez and Aaron Eckhart – as well as director Jonathan Liebesman and producer Neil Moritz – held a press conference to talk more about the film and how it is a unique take on the alien invasion genre.
To get the conversation started, someone asked Michelle Rodriguez how her character in Avatar compared to her work in Battle: Los Angeles. Rodriguez said that she felt relieved because the part wasn’t as physical as her previous action movie roles.
As a technical specialist, Rodriguez said that her character really only uses her physical capabilities when she is forced to as a matter of survival. Neil Moritz assured the audience that Rodriguez definitely does “kick ass” in the movie however, so don’t worry about seeing some awesome action scenes.
Next, someone asked Aaron Eckhart what he thought about being in indie films versus big blockbuster films. Eckhart said there really is no difference and that loves both. He did admit that on a big set you have “every toy” and that on Battle: Los Angeles, they had the ability to shut down whole freeways and bring in helicopters, so that’s definitely an advantage.
Someone asked if alien invasion films were coming back in popularity, to which Neil Moritz replied “I don’t know if they ever left.” Describing alien invasion films as a “staple of the movie business,” Moritz promised that Battle: Los Angeles would provide a fresh twist on the genre.
According to Moritz, the movie really focuses on “one marine battalion’s POV of a worldwide invasion” and he responded to “the reality of the script.” The movie is going to ask the question, “What would really happen if aliens were to invade?”
Citing their respective appearances in Avatar and The Dark Knight, someone asked Michelle Rodriguez and Aaron Eckhart what it was like to be “Gods at Comic-Con.” Rodriguez answered the question humbly, explaining that when she sees fans at Comic-Con she sees “a deep appreciation and love for the manifestation of the imagination.”
Eckhart added to Rodriguez’s remarks, saying that big film experiences help to shape people’s lives and that he learned lessons from comic books growing up. He also said that it was fun to see families come out to Comic-Con and that they “work hard making these movies, so it’s rewarding” to see people enjoy them.
In order to achieve the realism that Jonathan Liebesman was going for, Eckhart and Rodriguez went through extensive training for the movie. In fact, the reality of the film is what drew Eckhart to the movie.
According to Eckhart, when he first met Liebesman to discuss the film, the director showed him a YouTube video of marines fighting in Fallujah and said he wanted to movie to look like that. Eckhart was immediately interested in the idea, and, after signing on to the film, went through a three week boot camp to prepare for the role.
During the boot camp, Eckhart went through physical training, learned weapons, and more. He said that it was a great experience because all of the cast members bonded and that the relationships they developed “come across in the movie.”
Jonathan Liebesman answered a question about how the aliens would appear in the film, explaining that his goal is to have aliens that looked like “a real army.” Liebesman explained that he “wanted to go back to making aliens feel really alien” and that, for the audience, seeing strange beings attack as an army would be a very scary thing.
One person asked why Michelle Rodriguez’s character always seems to get killed off in movies to which she smartly replied, “Because I don’t take my clothes off and I’m no one’s girlfriend.” She went on to explain that many writers and directors don’t know what to do with a strong female character.
In a somewhat tangential question, someone asked what the panel’s thoughts were on alien abduction? Aaron Eckhart tried to beg off the question before finally saying, “I have empathy for those people, they’re nuts.”
Jonathan Liebesman gave an interesting answer on the future of entertainment and movies, explaining that it’s “Impossible to replace an actor’s performance” and that “you’re going to have actors forever.” The basic sentiment was that motion-capture is amazing, but it relies on an actor’s performance and computers will never be able to take over that responsibility.
Michelle Rodriguez jumped in to talk about motion-capture performances and described what it was like to be on set for Avatar.
Rodriguez said that for James Cameron, the future of film involved using technology to literally enhance the actor’s performance. She said, “Literally, the dots are on all the parts of your face” and that the performance has to be authentic in order to be compelling. Rodriguez said that even with technology, it’s “about the human soul shining through whatever story you’re trying to tell.”
Aaron Eckhart graciously answered questions about Batman (a film he is no longer involved with in any way) saying that he doesn’t think a replacement for Heath Ledger as the Joker would be a good idea and that if he ever had the chance to work with Christopher Nolan again, he would jump at the opportunity.
Getting back to the reason for the panel, Jonathan Liebesman talked about how aliens represent something oppressive that is easy for audiences to connect with. In a world where there are gray areas and moral relativism reigns supreme, Liebesman said, “The time is right for these kinds of black and white, good versus evil movies.” He went on to say, “I think there’s a lot of insecurity over the last decade and that’s why people are predisposed to watching good battle evil.” Eckhart also chimed in to say the movie works because we can’t identify with aliens and that it unifies “our side.”
Liebesman touched on a bit of the plot of the film, saying that it was based on a government cover up of a 1942 UFO sighting. Apparently, some army guys saw a UFO, shot at it, and the government swept it under the rug. This incident spawned the idea that the UFO was on a recon mission and that the aliens were scouting out the planet for an eventual attack. Liebesman also confirmed that the aliens attack over natural resources, specifically mentioning the fact that the Earth is 70% water.
Alien invasion movies are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but something tells me that Battle: los Angeles will be different. Later in the day, we’ll have a report of the Battle: Los Angeles Hall H presentation and a recap of the footage.