There’s plenty of low budget films released in the last two years where the filmmakers overcame the lack of major financing. They had a story to tell and it worked without being able to pour millions of dollars into it. With low budget films in general I tend to grade on a curve knowing their limitations. Battalion doesn’t get that benefit of the doubt as its filmmaker seemed oblivious to its limitations.
An alien armada has invaded Earth and the military needs new recruits to handle the threat. John (Jesse Richardson) and Tracey (Ellen Williams) join the fray under the command of John’s best friend Chris (Michael Thomson). For John, the conflict is personal as the aliens killed Chris’ family while he was getting them to safety. But as the conflict with the robot alien invaders and their bug-like army escalates, no one is truly safe.
The obvious comparison here is Starship Troopers, but it’s incredible that a film made 21 years ago looks so much better. Granted, Starship Troopers had a massive $105 million budget, but its effects still hold up today. Battalion’s effects wouldn’t have held up in 1970. George Lucas revolutionized the genre in 1977 with Star Wars, but his creativity could only take him so far. Lucas needed every penny of that $11 million budget to help convey his vision. Maybe it’s admirable that director/writer Michael Miller thought he could cobble together a sci-fi film for $39,000, but it’s not very realistic.
The alien invaders look bad. With CGI barely above original PlayStation graphics and animation so herky jerky, students in a decent computer graphics class could match it. Miller has to get creative with his use of beach fronts and forests. These don’t exactly make for the most dramatic war movie settings however.
To compensate from the obvious financial restrictions, most filmmakers would try to balance it out with good character development. Battalion comes up short on that front as well as John, Tracey and Chris don’t really have distinct personalities and Miller doesn’t provide enough reasons to get invested in them. Miller kicks off the first half of the film with some questionable editing choices attempting to show their lives before the war, but it’s ineffective and is more confusing.
It also doesn’t help that Miller’s score frequently drowns out the dialogue. Initially, it’s just frustrating, but as the film plays out, there’s a sense you’re not really missing much. The cast is OK. I didn’t come away thinking any is a future star waiting on their big break. At least they’re far from the worst aspect of the film.
Battalion is a reminder of how astonishingly difficult it is to make a sci-fi movie on a budget. And why in most cases, filmmakers would be better served coming up with a better idea if they can’t do it right.
Rating: 1 out of 10
Photo Credit: High Octane Pictures