Don't be fooled by the ad campaign for Battle Los Angeles, making it look like something more than a generic sci-fi action film. It isn't. It is pretty much a generic sci-fi action film but one that takes a different view from where the action takes place - the front line with the people who would probably be the first to engage if this sort of scenario would take place. Usually with alien invasion films we get the point of view from the average Joe, the citizen forced to flee and fight back while the army is usually portrayed as heartless semi villains or bumbling egotistical idiots that the hero has to help out to fight the invading army. I can't think of many alien invasion flicks where the marines are the main focal point, ID4 had Will Smith as one of many main characters and while the Transformers films are very army centric - the main characters are hot civilians.
Battle centers on a single marine squad that has the task of getting to an overrun police station and escorting civilians to a safe area before the air force blows that part of L.A to smithereens. Sounds simple enough but of course things don't go as planned. Aaron Eckhart plays Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, an old marine set to retire in a few days because he feels that he has lost his spirit after a mission gone bad in Afghanistan. But as movie clichés would have it a massive alien force invades earth and he's forced to get his gear on one last time for the good of his country.
What follows is essentially Black Hawk Down with a mix of District 9 that while looks really, really good is brought down by a weak and clichéd script. Things go pretty much by the numbers in this one and you know how it will all play out if you've seen this type of film before, even during the middle the film stops dead in its track so Eckhart can deliver a rousing speech to pep up his men which is way too long and sugary. The only thing missing is the slow applause from a listener at the end of it.
Unlike Black Hawk Down, which this film owes allot to, we never get the chance to know any of the characters involved in this conflict. As such you don't care about these people or what happens to them. The look of the film is really beautiful and there is shaky-cam-a-plenty, but done in a way that doesn't confuse the viewer too much. The thing that did confuse me, however, was that all the characters are dressed the same. It is sometimes hard to tell one person from another.
The design and look of the film is the real winner here. The gritty look of it, manic action scenes and well integrated CGI in to the environment all mesh together really well. The performances are decent, nobody stands out really but there are some poor choices as well, especially during the more dramatic moments. Eckhart is believable as the staff sergeant and it was nice to see Michael Peña, who I've only seen as a drugged out sleaze bag in comedies pull a dramatic performance with ease.
The action scenes are powerful and intense and the film has plenty of fantastic looking moments but the cheese infested script hinders this film to become a kick ass spectacle with some depth to it that somebody else aside from army personnel might enjoy. This film out Michael Bay's Michael Bay in the army fetish insanity and I'd go so far as to say that this film is THE most blatant army recruitment video I've seen in years. And while the advertising campaign uses amazing songs to build tension and atmosphere the score in Battle LA is chest thumpingly over dramatic and over the top.
It's a damn shame that Battle Los Angeles dwells in to far too familiar territory to become something other than a run of the mill summer movie, a fantastic looking summer movie though. It is, sadly, a case where the marketing department did a far better job with the material than the actual filmmakers.
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