Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Several months back I posted my criticisms about alien invasion movies and the stupid excuses writers use to explain why aliens invade a planet. The excuse for this movie is a little less lame than average: The aliens need water in liquid form as a fuel. Okay, I’ll let that one pass with suspended disbelief.

The movie starts, after a brief shot of the Marines riding in a helicopter into the battle, with a really boring section meant to establish the character’s back-stories. It was so boring for several minutes, but ultimately I have to admit it added to the value of the film once the action started.

There’s an awful lot of attention given to the military ranks. It adds to the realism and helps with the drama if you’re military savvy enough to understand the difference between a Staff Sergeant, a First Sergeant and an air-force Tech Sergeant.

This is a military drama in the guise of an alien invasion movie. The alien encounters are good action sequences, but not on-par with the classics Alien or Predator. For most of the fighting, the aliens shooting back could just as well have been other soldiers from random_political_enemy_01. Very little of the action deals with overcoming alien technology, though several minutes are dedicated to identifying how to kill an alien, including a vivisection of a wounded alien. This helps explain the standard alien movie combat development. You know, how the first alien takes two hundred bullets to kill but in the middle of the movie, a spray of sixty shots from a machine gun can take down a thousand aliens. Okay, so this movie doesn’t get to that level of unrealism.

Actually, realism is rampant, allowing for the existence of water powered aliens, anyway. The film takes very overt care to explain the why’s. There is an oddity in that though the city is in ruins and every locations seems riddled with alien bullet holes, most of the televisions are on and broadcasting news including scientific analysis of the situation such as that the aliens seem to be using water as fuel.

But, as I mentioned, this really was more of a military drama than an alien invasion flick. There were the prerequisite back-stories with the guy on the verge of retirement, the green officer and newbie recruits and the main character had an iffy background in leadership. The female soldier was not a marine, but the last survivor of an air force recon mission that the marines stumbled across. When the body count gets too high and we need more, they join up with another group of anonymous marines, aka, the future flying bodies when things explode. All the marines whose names we know, we get to see die dramatically. Well, those that die, anyway.

There are the acts of heroism and the acts of sacrifice and the acts of sacrificial heroism and even the tender moments with a marine letting a little girl hold his hand when she’s scared.

Being a non-fan of alien invasion movies, I had low expectations going in. Being a veteran, I could appreciate the military drama aspects of the movie. And realizing that the film deftly dodged many of the things I don’t like about most alien invasion movies, I have to give this one a positive review.

Aaron Eckhart played the main role as the Marine Staff Sergeant and did a good job. Michelle Rodriguez played the Air Force Tech Sergeant as a slightly smarter variation of the military chic we’ve seen her play before, but it’s always a pleasure.

The major drawback to the film was the shaky-cam style. I know it’s still the posh military flick style, but it just makes the action a little harder to follow. I’m not sure its worth the “realism” that it’s supposed to add. I’d have opted to just use the shaky cam when we’re actually following an individual and backed out to a steady cam when following the unit–which is mostly what the director did, but I’d not have followed an individual when the action or the drama was at the unit level. Several times the shaky cam was with an individual not dramatically contributing to the immediate action involving the unit.

Three and a half out of five stars. Worth a look for people into Alien Invasion flicks or military action dramas.


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