The past few years have seen a resurfacing of the entertainment industry’s love and fascination of aliens and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Aliens have been popping up in kid’s movies, television shows, revisited franchises, and even in an Oscar-nominated film just last year. And it doesn’t seem like they’ll be fading from the spotlight anytime soon – on the horizon are Mars Needs Moms (opening this week), Cowboys vs. Aliens, Paul, Transformers: The Dark of the Moon, Prometheus, and the TV show Falling Skies hits this summer. With such an E.T. overload, these new movies and shows better bring their A games or suffer the consequences of simply blending in with the rest of the alien pack. Unfortunately for Battle: Los Angeles, it does nothing to set itself apart from its predecessors. The film has enough gunfire, explosions, and mass destruction to make Michael Bay pee himself, but don’t expect much more. The action is fast-paced and intense, but in the end Battle: Los Angeles leaves you wishing there was something else to it.
Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman
Written By: Christopher Bertolini
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Will Rothhaar, Ramón Rodríguez, Bridget Moynahan
The movie begins just as you’d expect – 24 hours before the invasion, the residents of LA are going about their daily lives without any premonition of the chaos to come. The main character, Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), is on the cusp of retiring from the Marines. We catch a glimpse of the supporting ensemble’s lives: a man kisses his pregnant wife goodbye in the morning, another soldier shops for flowers for his upcoming wedding. All is well until an initially normal report of a meteor shower escalates into worldwide confusion and chaos. When the meteors turn out to actually be hostile extraterrestrials, the Marines are activated and Nantz’s retirement is cut short. His new assignment is to lead a team of soldiers into the war zone and rescue a group of civilians before the air force carpet bombs the area in an attempt to wipe out the aliens. The bombs are set to drop in three hours, and if Nantz’s team and the rescued civilians aren’t out safely by then, they won’t be spared.
What ensues is an intense two hours of firefights, alien encounters, heavy casualties, and of course countless explosions. There is very little time to take a break from the visual and audio onslaught, as any period of silence is sure to be quickly followed by deafening blasts, crumbling buildings, and the distraught screams of wounded soldiers. Battle: Los Angeles is sure to satisfy adrenaline-junkies looking for awesome special effects and edge-of-your-seat action from start to finish.
Sadly, the film has little to offer besides it’s sensory-overload of whizzing bullets and mass destruction. The number of clichés in this film is utterly amazing and makes so much of it downright laughable. Everything we see has been done before. The aliens are invading because they want Earth’s water supply. Nantz has a checkered military history that makes the soldiers under his command doubt his ability to lead them. But after the difficult loss of a comrade, Nantz gives a heartfelt speech and wins the trust of the group. Almost every soldier is a stereotypical character we see in films depicting military personnel: the scared young kid, the foreign bad-ass, the strong woman who can hold her own, the Southern boy. And some of the one-liners are so bad that you might actually laugh out loud.
These things would be forgivable if Battle: Los Angeles was going for an Independence Day sort of vibe, but it clearly isn’t. Besides the upfront absurdity of invading aliens, the movie wants to be taken seriously. The characters share many moments that are obviously meant to be emotional, but these scenes just don’t work. Maybe it’s because you don’t care much about the characters or maybe it’s because the ridiculous amount of clichés throughout the movie make it impossible to connect to them. Whatever the case, the subplots and characters fall flat and are bound to have you rolling your eyes.
The bottom line for Battle: Los Angeles is that, if all you’re seeking is intense action and an onslaught to your senses, you’ve come to the right place. But if you’re hoping for a feature that somehow differs from the typical invasion movie, you’ll probably leave the theater disappointed. Unless you’re ready to drop ten bucks on explosions and gunfire alone, I’d say wait to see this one on DVD.