Battle: Los Angeles, is best described as a mix between Black Hawk Down and Independence Day, which in theory would result in a pretty kick ass film. But there are a lot of things that sound great in theory that don’t quite work in real life – such as snuggies and Mean Girls 2.
To be fair, the first hour or so of Battle: Los Angeles, directed by Jonathon Liebesman and written by relative newcomer Christopher Bertolini, is pretty awesome. The raw, documentary-esque filming style and slightly unique premise of an organised alien military colonising our planet – not to be scary or steal our secrets, solely to suck up our resources – is engaging.
The film is loosely based on the Battle of Los Angeles – a supposed aerial attack on the city during World War II that turned out to be a false alarm. The action begins when alien ships disguised as meteor showers arrive off the coast of several major cities – including Los Angeles, where (as you might have guessed) this film is set – and immediately begin wiping out Earth’s indigenous population: humans.
The focus is on a group of rough-around-the-edges but nice marines, watched over by Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who is haunted by the failure of his last assignment. The division’s mission is to get into Santa Monica (which is overrun with aliens) and get some civilians out before the U.S. Air Force bomb the whole area. Liebesman and Bertolini do a good job of showing the raw fear of the characters. The action gets intense very quickly and visually you’re put in the place of the marines – being attacked from every angle while the city burns around you. It’s thrilling, verging on a little scary.
But when the plan starts to go pear-shaped and the group meet up with some other marines stranded in the ‘drop zone’, things begin to get slightly Captain America. And from the moment I saw Michelle Rodriguez pop up as yet another tough female military character (no offence to her, but aren’t there other roles out there?), I began to lose faith in the film.
Things start looking up again when Nantz and a veterinarian civilian perform a backyard autopsy on a still living alien to work out how best to kill them. And more so when news reports – which are skilfully dotted throughout the film to put the group’s struggle into context – start speculating on the reason for the alien invasion and why they need our salt water. But unfortunately, this is where the science ends and the fiction takes over, and any interesting ideas about where these aliens have come from, how they got here and how they’re walking about comfortably on Earth are swept under the ‘America will prevail’ rug.
Of course, these omissions seem to be on purpose rather than an oversight, in line with the style of focussing intensely on the group of marines as they try to get to safety – we’re kept in the dark just as they are. But it appeared to me that Liebesman and Bertolini were bent on painting the marines as the sole heroes in the story who pick up on things that NASA and other scientists have overlooked. And, yes, there are plot holes. Gaping plot holes that are so big you can’t help but stare down into them even with all of the action put in place to distract you.
Overall, it is an entertaining film, just not what I was expecting – a true science fiction film that is thought provoking and intelligent. But if you’re into lots of action think you can stomach hell yeah dialogue such as “LET”S TAKE BACK LOS ANGELES” for 116 minutes, then it’s worth checking out. And, as a saving grace, they get points for not showing footage of the world’s famous monuments being blown up by alien invaders.