Battle: Los Angeles
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict
The alien invasion film has been done a number of different ways. There’s the giant, sprawling special effects-laden monstrosities that focus on the massive scope of the event, like “Independence Day.” Then there’s the smaller, more personal stories, like Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” “Signs” and the recent remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” “Battle: Los Angeles” takes a different approach to the alien-invasion movie by shifting the focus to a detail of marines trying to save lives during an extra-terrestrial attack.
The concept seems so simple, I was actually amazed I hadn’t seen it before. Most alien-invasion movies have some kind of military component, but it’s always the president, the secretary of defense or a cabinet of four-star generals calling the shots. You know the drill: A bunch of guys in green uniforms, ribbons and accommodations pinned to their jackets, standing in front of a row of computer monitors detailing a global attack. They shout out orders with a gravely voice and always make recommendations that involve nuking the vast majority of the free world.
Rarely do we see a “war of the worlds” scenario focusing on the enlisted men who make up the first line of defense. In concept, I found “Battle: Los Angeles” to be intriguing. It combines the kind of hard, brutal urban combat found in a movie like “Black Hawk Down” but replaces nameless, faceless terrorists with nameless, faceless alien antagonists. The end product is a brutal, relentless assault on the senses and is completely ridiculous, thanks to a screenplay generated by some kind of word processor that only writes cliché.
I understand that some movies cover similar territory. We can’t expect to get a movie about alien invaders without using some of the same basic concepts. To that end, a movie can’t be made about the military without taking some of the same turns. But when combining the two incredibly clichéd story types, there needs to be an effort made to deviate from the standard fare. There isn’t a character in “Battle: Los Angeles” that hasn’t been ripped from some other thinly written war movie.
Aaron Eckhart makes an admirable attempt to bring emotional weight to the predictable role of Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz. Sergeant Nantz is just days away from retiring after a tragic tour of duty, resulting in the loss of his men. His plans are sidetracked when alien invaders begin marching onto the beaches in Santa Monica and start causing a ruckus. This isn’t the typical alien armada—no big ships with giant lasers that can level a city with a zap. No 50-story mechanical robots marching through the streets. Instead, we get an alien commando group with a lot of firepower. The end result is a close encounter of the loud kind. Those who enjoy the sound of people yelling and machine guns being fired will find this pure pornography.
Since we’re dealing with cliché, I’ll go with one of my own: the video game comparison. It’s impossible to not see the impact of video games in the new generation of filmmakers. Watching “Battle: Los Angeles” is like a video game without the controller. The feeling is familiar; like handling the controller. I lost count at the number of first-person, POV shots presented through the scope of a rifle. At one point I was convinced the movie was directed by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
The video game comparison isn’t just a visual one but is appropriate in regards to story and pace. There’s a level-based mentality to the film. The characters are given a quick mission briefing, and then the action unfolds until finally reaching the end of the level, allowing a few minutes to establish the next shoot-out set piece. The action is relentless, almost to a point where it completely loses any impact. The characters are so generic that their deaths are meaningless.
I didn’t hate “Battle: Los Angeles,” but I didn’t care a thing for it. The whole movie plays like an Internet fan film or special-effects demo from a company trying to drum up work. They take a novel concept and spin it into a 90-minute action sequence, pausing only long enough to deliver some exceptionally awful dialogue. It makes no effort to be anything original. Instead, it mashes up the two movies into something utterly predictable and ultimately uninteresting.
Battle: Los Angeles | Movie Trailer | Review