Battalion is a 2018 sci-fi adventure film about a war against an enemy from another world that breaks out in the South Pacific, leaving a group of freshly recruited U.S. Marines sent to the front lines.
Low budget films tend to get pigeon-holed into a corner, often unfairly compared to their blockbuster counterparts, films that sort of set the standard for how all movies are judged. It’s a little unfair of course as money can make a huge difference in what a filmmaker can do. That said, it’s often pretty impressive what some independent directors are doing with so little. However, many overextend themselves, trying to tell a bigger story than what their backing can afford, sacrificing story and authenticity for unconvincing visual effects and untrained actors. Such is the case for Michael Miller‘s incredibly ambitious Battalion, a film with barely any money behind it trying to be bigger than most major studio epics, and while it does feature a solid, if not familiar story, and a good effort from its cast, it can’t overcome the production limitations, which greatly effects everything else, leaving this a disappointment.
Seven months ago, the world falls into global war, the enemy not ourselves but an alien race of machine-like creatures from a parallel universe. Leaving cities in ruins, including Los Angeles, the invaders establish a blockade running from the southern tip of Japan all the way to Australia. Needing soldiers, Earth’s defenses are running thin and recruits are needed, so in California John Blake (Jesse Richardson), a beach-combing mechanic, joins up along with Tracey Gleeson (Ellen Williams), a science professor burdened by the loss of her brother in Afghanistan, serving under John’s best friend Chris Jackson (Michael Thomson), who has personal reasons for fighting when his family is killed by the aliens while trying to escape on a plane. Heading to Australia, they take up the fight against a force that seems increasingly unstoppable.
Credit at least goes to Miller, who also wrote the story, for trying to go big, and admittedly, there’s a few good moments that find their footing, though much of it crumbles under the weight of its own aspirations. Following in the footsteps of many that came before it, it stitches together a host of old standards, including an early invasion scene, shocked citizens, an extended boot camp montage with a gruff drill sergeant, and much more. You can see how hard Miller and his small cast try to emulate these big budget titles and in so doing, with no money behind them, end up looking like an amateur home movie shot on the weekends, though with plenty of low grade CGI.
Knowing that, and trying to look past the restrictions Miller’s up against, the film itself does have some good qualities, with an honest attempt at building deeper characters and worthwhile conflicts. Richardson and Williams do best, though most others don’t have the presence their roles absolutely demand. Additionally, trying to portray a global battle with only seven actors in the ‘battalion’ certainly weakens the intended effect, something Miller tries to mask behind lots of visuals that are, unfortunately, not convincing, even if that’s surely where most of the money went. Still, fans of indie movies and alien invasion flicks might find enough here to keep it interesting, or even a little fun. I’m giving it some slack for sure, simply because I can appreciate what the filmmakers are trying to do, it’s just too bad maybe they couldn’t have kept it more focused on a smaller, more personal story than trying to hold more water than it can.
Movie description: BATTALION IS A 2018 SCI-FI ADVENTURE FILM ABOUT A WAR AGAINST AN ENEMY FROM ANOTHER WORLD THAT BREAKS OUT IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, LEAVING A GROUP OF FRESHLY RECRUITED U.S. MARINES SENT TO THE FRONT LINES.
Director(s): Michael Miller
Actor(s): Jesse Richardson, Ellen Williams, Michael Thomson
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi