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Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

March 11, 2011


written by: Christopher Bertolini

produced by: Jeffrey Chernov, Neal H. Moritz, & Ori Marmur

directed by: Jonathan Liebesman

rated PG-13 (for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language)

116 min.

U.S. release date: March 11, 2011


Forget saving the world. How about Santa Monica? That’s the goal of a handful of rattled marines who must make their way on foot, block by West Los Angeles block, as they try to protect civilians from an alien attack. That’s right, folks. There’s a “Battle” and it’s in “Los Angeles” (well, not really). And although the marketing for this picture wants you to believe there’s a global alien invasion going on, what we’re given is more along the lines of a frenzied military film. Closer in look and feel to “Black Hawk Down” if Michael Bay & Jerry Bruckheimer made it than a classic like “Independence Day”, this blockbuster bound event film could easily be used for recruiting marines. Oorah!

 Blips of meteor showers headed toward Earth have military radars and 24/7 news in a curious panic. By the time they violently land in other cities, American top brass begin to realize they are more than just hot rocks from space. From the crashing meteors that dispense Santa Monica surfer dudes comes relentless army of aliens out to go all “Saving Private Ryan” on resident Angelinos. In nearby Camp Pendleton, Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a 20 year veteran with some recent scar tissue watches all this go down from a monitor with the rest of his young and eager trainees. But he just had his exit papers signed, so he’s exempt from the scrambling military assembly that starts to build around him. Right? 


Not quite. Nantz gets pulled back in (in one of the many many clichés) and asked to help out “top-of-his-class” 2nd Lt. Martinez (Ramón Rodríguez, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) lead a platoon into a ravaged disaster zone. The goal: rescue reported civilians stranded in a police station and get them to Santa Monica airport, which is now their F.O.B. (Forward Operating Base). The catch: they have three hours before the powers that be obliterate the Santa Monica coast. It’s “go go go” time, as the group cautiously makes their way forward into a dense war zone. Despite a handful of bad calls by a shell-shocked Martinez and several close-encounters with alien warriors who are superior in both weaponry and technology (I did mention clichés!), they barely manage to hold it together. 
It doesn’t take long for them to fully grasp the gravity of their situation and come to realize that they could be the only resistance left in the area. Once they are joined by another small band of solders, including USAF Technical Sergeant Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) who may have some helpful alien intel, it looks like there could be hope. The stakes immediately increase once they meet up with the civilians, consisting of frightened adults (Michael Peña and Bridget Moynahan) and scared children. The road to safety and survival is a precarious and confusing one, clogged by an enemy that seems impossible to stop.

BATTLE LOS ANGELES Michelle Rodriguez



Six months haven’t even passed since the insipid “Skyline” attempted to invade theaters and moviegoers wallets. Knowing this movie was coming and seeing its trailers increased my anticipation for what looked like an alien invasion on a grander, more intense scale. Well, not so much, but what I appreciate most about “Battle: Los Angeles” is how it embraces itself as a war movie instead of a sci-fi action flick. Granted it didn’t establish this quick enough and its typical bravura and conclusion are textbook, it still has feels like it’s giving viewers something a little more original by putting them in the mayhem with this military squad. It takes a while to get used to the annoying shakey-cam (which had me grateful this wasn’t in 3D) which me thinking of current war footage you can find on the internet.  

Clearly, it’s a concept director Jonathan Liebesman (“Darkness Falls,” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”) is going for. It’s a challenge to follow all the debris-flying action at times, but he’s going for realism here, adding shock and awe to the sound and vision on the big screen. All of it may have been done before, but at least we’re not getting conspiracy theories by talking heads as to who these aliens are and what they want. Oh yeah, not quite on that either. Reports come through that these indistinguishable (yet quite squishable) foes are after our planet’s water. It’s not clear how this information was culled or the logic behind it, but I didn’t care. I was fine with stuff being blown up real good, end-of-the-world style.

When he’s not shaken his cameras every which way, Liebesman delivers a good dose of Michael Bay with his swirling scans and popcorn characterization. Composer Brian Tyler is on hand to match such an embracing Bay swipe, scoring the film with echoes of “The Rock” and “Pearl Harbor” (here’s to you, Mr. Zimmer!) that make you wonder when Cage and Affleck are going to show up. 






Unlike “Skyline” there actually are some solid actors here, it’s just that screenwriter Christopher Bertolini infuses their roles with stock genre lines and predictable characters. The actors are left to scream and shout while jumping, shooting and running amid a chaotic environment. Attempts are made to develop characters during down time but the movie is better off when the camera just rests on a weary marine. And to that, there are plenty of close-up shots that gives us the emotional apprehension or evident fatigue that would naturally come in such an environment.

Even though his arc is barely there, Eckhart seems to be the only one working on a character. From the start of the movie, his weariness is noticeably physical and mental. His convincing expressions and body language of a career marine sold me. He would’ve made a great Captain America. Rodriguez is good, suitably cast in yet another combative go-to role. But all the other actors seem to be doing the same thing, either punching objects when someone dies, quipping wisecracks, or taking time to cheer on other soldiers. I get it a couple of times, but it feels recycled after a while.

A movie such as this reminds me what better-equipped directors like Cameron or Bigelow (connection duly noted) can bring to the battlefield. They gave us “Aliens” and “The Hurt Locker”, respectively, which contain well-developed characters thrown into intense mayhem. Not all alien or war movies are as convincing as those two classics, so when I watch a movie like “Battle: Los Angeles”, it doesn’t take much for me to recall that similar yet superior movies have already been made.  

This movie is more epic in scale and greater in quality than “Skyline” (yes, I have to keep mentioning it because the connection is so obvious) and it has a concise and direct story thread that overall is easy to follow. Just bring some Dramamine as the heroes get busy on some gooey aliens. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter. It will do big numbers and in the sequel we will hopefully see the marines get some help from East L.A. locals.   



RATING: **1/2





10 Comments leave one →
  1. Tairy Greene permalink
    March 11, 2011 12:22 pm

    Just be grateful they didn’t set this in New York City for the billionth time.

    You can never go wrong with more Eckhart though.

  2. Brian Whiz permalink
    March 13, 2011 12:27 pm

    Dude, you’re FIRED! Bay didn’t direct Black Hawk Down, Scott did… I cannot even believe you could possibly think Bay capable of directing such a great movie. I still love you though.

    • March 13, 2011 1:05 pm

      haha black hawk down good… and fired?? too funny.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      March 13, 2011 4:22 pm

      I have no clue what review you were reading but thanks for your comments. They are always entertaining….hey, at least I used “marine” when referring to those sweaty guys with helmets and guns.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      March 13, 2011 5:17 pm

      There ya go! Maybe that more clearly states what I was trying to communicate. It originally stated the following….

      Closer in look and feel to a Michael Bay directed/Jerry Bruckheimer produced “Black Hawk Down” than a classic like “Independence Day”, this blockbuster bound event film could easily be used for recruiting marines.

      ….I did include “to a” and not a “the” before Bay/Bruckheimer’s names but I guess that was lost somehow.

      • Brian Whiz permalink
        March 14, 2011 1:17 am

        Yeah, that’s where the confusion came in…

  3. windi noel permalink
    March 13, 2011 6:16 pm

    I haven’t even seen the previews for this…but my nephew (who is almost 16) saw it today and posted that he really liked it. Of course, he’s a 15 year old boy….. not sure that would equate to ME liking it….

    I’ll have to go find a preview, I guess…

  4. Coco permalink
    March 28, 2011 7:40 am

    Ramon Rodriguez is a half-brother to one of my old middle school friends. So I’ll probably end up watching this.

    The picture stills make the film look like “Battlefield Earth” and that would have been a good enough reason to keep me away. But your description alters my take on the movie so I’ll give it a go. I can’t resist a good human vs. alien movie. Loved “Predators” and of course, the “Alien” series.

    @Brian Whiz You may want to re-read that part about Bay.


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