Despite having read a myriad of bad reviews for Battle Los Angeles – several of which were more concerned with whether there should be a colon in the title rather than in the quality of the film – I decided to bite the bullet and go and see Aaron Eckhart save Los Angeles from a bunch of aliens. Two things to note immediately: 1) for ‘Los Angeles’ read ‘The World’ and 2) wouldn’t it be nice if aliens looked less revolting?
As usual, let’s start off with the plot (and there is a spoiler warning here): Aliens invade LA, marines fight back, aliens are defeated.
After a fifteen-minute introduction, which lets us know that we have the full range of war movie cliches here (soldier about to be married, soldier about to be a father, soldier about to retire, soldier whose brother has been led to his death by a soldier now leading him, soldier with post traumatic stress disorder, female soldier who shoots better than male soldiers, young virgin soldier, novice lieutenant soldier, wizened old battle scarred soldier), the action gets going. And once those meteors start falling – the kind that slow down before they hit the ground – the action never lets up. And our motley gang of heroes doesn’t just wade in to the thick of it once or twice, their bravery is relentless. They don’t need to rest and eat (‘we’ve already had breakfast’ one lies when given the choice between food and beating the shit out of even more aliens).
Once the aliens have emerged from their meteor craft and zapped dead all the sunbathers on Santa Monica’s beach, they start to move in on LA. While the defenders dig in at the FOB, the marines are given the task of reaching a police station to rescue a group of civilians trapped behind enemy lines. Needlesstosay, when the marines finally reach the police station they discover there are children amongst the group. The pleasant surprise is that they don’t have a dog. The task is then to get everyone back to the safety of the FOB while also working out how to destroy the ship that controls the clones, which the aliens use as their weapons and aircraft.
I am surprised to say that I really did enjoy this film. It did exactly what it said on the tin and only deviated in one matter. The hero, Staff Sergeant Nantz, is played by Aaron Eckhart, a fine actor who actually manages to do something with this role. He may growl a bit, he doesn’t smile too often, but he plays the part of Nantz with a kind of gravitas that suits him. Everyone else blurred into one, although it was nice to see Michelle Rodriguez recreating her role from Avatar and other things.
As for the aliens, they’re a strange bunch. Fortunately, among the civilians is a vet, which is just what you need when you have to work out how to kill a creature that seems unkillable. It turned out their weakspot was on the right side, just by where the heart would be, so I’m surprised it took them as long as they did to work it out. The aliens can disguise their spaceships as meteors and their bodies combine organic mush with armour and yet their weapons aren’t that much better than those of the marines, they’re not very organised (their air support was late) and they’re not too bright. Just as well.
Battle Los Angeles (or should that be Battle: Los Angeles) is great to look at – LA is flattened by Hollywood again and the sets and CGI are suitably realistic and believable. The action is exciting. The dialogue is appalling and the characterisation is rather meagre. The shaky camera work annoyed me hugely during the introduction sequences but it didn’t matter as much once the bullets started flying.
Films such as this go quite a way to replace the war films of past decades. There is a niche for shoot ’em up alien movies. What are bands of troubled, angst-ridden, testosterone-flooded movie soldiers to do now? It’s best to keep the dirty dozen out of the way of reality and safely occupied bombing aliens. Even better when the aliens in question are two beers short of a six-pack. It all goes very well with the Ben and Jerry’s.