If you thought a Michael Bay movie had a lot of explosions, wait until you see this. Loud, crazy and ridiculous are the only ways to describe Battle: Los Angeles, an escapist film that has zero substance, but manages to make up for it with little downtime and non-stop action. By normal movie making standards, it’s not what one would call “good” (the script, quite frankly, is garbage), but my job is to say whether or not the film is worth seeing and based on pure fun factor alone, I have to conclude that it is.
The movie takes place in the not-too-distant future, August 2011, and Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has just signed his release papers after 20 years in the Marines and a tour in Iraq where he lost his platoon of soldiers. Recent reports on the news have been saying that meteors have been falling from the sky, landing near coasts all around the world. The strange thing, however, is that they’re slowing down before impact. The world quickly finds out these are no ordinary meteors and that aliens have landed and are planning to wipe out all human existence. In light of this, Nantz is pulled back into the Marines and is tasked, along with a new platoon of soldiers, with defending Los Angeles.
Before the attack, things are running normal at the California Marine base where we are introduced to a host of faces. Each character has their own story. Some are comedic, but not funny, while others are dramatic, but emotionless. It jumps so frantically from character to character that none really work. Rather than develop these plot points and show why certain people act the way they do, they’re quickly said through expositional dialogue and brushed over in favor of getting to the action. Because of this, there’s nobody to care about, so when characters get killed off, you won’t bat an eye.
Still, the feeling of war in one of the country’s largest cities is expertly realized. The streets are lined with fire and give off the feeling that the enemy could be anywhere. Cars sit desolate near gas stations while buildings house dozens of corpses of folks unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Aside from some occasionally sketchy special effects, all of this is brought to convincing life with the help of an effective handheld shooting style that gives the film a sense of realism.
Of course, that realism is lost on such a ridiculous science fiction film, as is the horrors of war message, which is forced into the film through corny dialogue filled scenes where Nantz sadly reminisces about the men he lost in Iraq. In addition, the non-diegetic musical score is out-of-place, serving only to further cripple a movie that desires to be authentic.
Regardless of the lack of character development and other flaws, the acting is good and somehow manages to keep you distracted enough to focus on what’s important: having fun. Eckhart is terrific as usual, as is the rest of the cast, even when they are throwing out stupid one-liners, of which none are funny. Essentially, Battle: Los Angeles is a mixture of Independence Day, Cloverfield and the recent Skyline and its quality rests somewhere between the two latter films. It’s not as strikingly original as Cloverfield, but it’s not as bland as Skyline either. Although most will surely be disappointed that it’s not as good as the trailers suggest, it’s still worth a look.
Battle: Los Angeles receives 3/5