You would have thought that aliens would have learned their
lesson by now. Why when invading
earth do they pick on the America first, the largest stockpile of armaments in
the world? Battle: Los Angeles features a bunch of pressure-cooker headed aliens
short on intelligence, but apparently better armed than we are, who decide to
lay waste to one of the most well defended areas on the planet.
With most of LA reduced to smoking piles of rubble and burnt
out cars in the first 10 minutes, it’s up to Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron
Eckhart) to lead a team of largely anonymous grunts on a ground mission to
rescue some civilians before an incoming airstrike wipes Santa Monica off the
Alien invasion has been a stock genre for decades; you would
have thought that writers would be able to something new with the material or
at least stick to what works. But
the aliens in Battle LA are unimaginative walking tin cans that function as
targets for faceless marines to take potshots at and when stripped of their
armour are nothing more than squidgy bundles of tentacles.
For such a big-budget movie, there’s very little spectacle.
Admittedly the aerial shots of LA burning are quite impressive and manage to
convey the enormous scale of the devastation but for the most part, grey marines
take cover behind bits of brown wall and exchange small arms fire with grey
aliens entrenched behind piles of brown scenery. The weaponry
isn’t even inventive – no plasma cannons or laser rifles here – replace
“aliens” with “marines” and it could quite easily be mistaken for the urban
combat zones of Blackhawk Down. Roland
Emmerich wouldn’t even roll over in his sleep for the small scale explosions on
That’s not to say there’s nothing to enjoy – some of the fire
fights are tense and exciting and the pace is constantly brisk. Aaron Eckhart is
carving a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s most reliable actors and fits
the part as a grizzled, stoically tough marine surprisingly well, even though
he’s saddled with appallingly clichéd dialogue. Of particular note is a grandstanding speech he gives about
duty and loss, which begins to be quite moving only to be brushed away
dismissively with “But none of
that matters right now” – a hilarious line that could have been come straight
For the most part, Battle: Los Angeles is one sequence of action pieces after another. But with no characters to care about
other than Eckhart, who according to screenwriting 101, is either going to A)
save the day or B) die heroically while saving the day, it’s hard to care who anyone
is, let alone give a hoot about their fates.
Plenty of the film seems to exist purely for filler. After capturing a wounded alien, the
squad spend a good 10 minutes trying to work out the best way to kill it. But the information’s completely
irrelevant since the walking tin cans seem to go down just as well if you shoot
them anywhere or if the team blow them up with the copious amounts of ordnance
they seem to have to hand.
It’s a competently acted but poorly scripted action movie; a
film with the subtlety of a brick that delivers big-screen action bombast but
lightweight emotional drama; one about as two-dimensional and forgettable as
any of its marines or the saucepan-headed aliens they’re up against and one
that delivers disappointing little bang for your buck.