DVD review: Battle: Los Angeles delivers exactly what it promises, nothing more but certainly nothing less: It’s the U.S. Marines (“Ooh-rah!”) fighting off an alien invasion of Los Angeles. That simple entertainment goal is met with macho, video-game bravado.
You can play the “influences” game all day with the new PG-13 sci-fi action film Battle: Los Angeles: Take War of the Worlds by way of Independence Day, run it through the Aliens sci-fi military machine, give it some Blackhawk Down and Saving Private Ryan combat-zone grit and nobility, a little Hurt Locker verisimilitude, add a dash of District 9’s goopy extraterrestrials, shake(cam) mightily and serve.
The plot is fuss-free and uses every part of the war-movie buffalo: sturdy Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole) is a battle-weary Marine sergeant stationed in Los Angeles when a worldwide alien invasion lands on his coastal doorstep. (“NASA scientists are following a large number of meteors falling in the Pacific ocean.”)
He’s thrown in with an ethnically diverse squad of Walking, Talking War-Movie Characters who head out into what is now an urban war zone to rescue stranded civilians (including Michael Pena and Bridget Moynahan). After picking up a stray Air Force tech sergeant along the way (Machete‘s Michelle Rodriquez), the Marines come face to face with the Invaders and they shoot at them. A whole lot.
While your Roland Emmerichs and James Camerons are still making big-canvas, world-sprawling action spectacles, there’s a trend lately toward disaster movies with a tighter, smaller scope. The modestly budgeted Skyline and Monsters both address alien invasions from the point of view of a few individuals, not the White House and NORAD, and Battle: Los Angeles does the same. We’re told the invasion is global, but director Jonathan Liebesman and writer Christopher Bertollini keep their ground-level focus on one squad of Marines on one mission in one city.
The aliens themselves aren’t gut-level terrifying–their ships look like flying rice cakes, and while plenty of Good Guys don’t make it, it appears the E.T.s learned to aim and shoot at the Imperial Stormtrooper Firing Range. But the critters are relentless conquistadors, and Liebesman takes his visual cues from modern urban combat in Iraq, keeping a sure hand on the throttle as he cloaks his ground-level action in the fog of war.
When it comes to some good ol’ mindless, adrenaline-rush sci-fi action, Battle: Los Angeles puts its helmeted, camouflaged head down and charges forward. The Marines often bark out clunky expositions as they run and shoot, only occasionally slowing the war drums so someone can make a short–usually death-bed–speech about upholding the honor and spirit of the American Fighting Tradition while the heroic Michael Bay French horns play on the soundtrack.
For the most part that lean, mean headlong momentum keeps Battle: Los Angeles on track, charging easily over the ham-handed dialogue and plot-device head-scratchers. The movie isn’t going to surprise anyone: there’s crash-boom-bang war action, impressively devastated urban vistas and alien special effects, and plenty of Baseball-and-Apple-Pie swagger. And little else. But if you don’t expect more than a gun-cocking, fist-pumping night out, Battle: Los Angeles will give you just what you’re looking for.
Battle: Los Angeles is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox.
More war and/or alien action from redbox:
- Skyline (on DVD and Blu-ray)
- I Am Number Four (on DVD and Blu-ray)
- Predators on DVD and Blu-ray and the original Predator
- The Expendables on DVD and Blu-ray