Battle: Los Angeles

14 03 2011


What would happen if a hostile, alien species suddenly landed off the coast of major cities around the world? What if, when we tried to fight back, we were laughably destroyed by their superior firepower? Would the human race survive?

Battle: Los Angeles tries to answer these pressing questions, and the answer it comes up with is a mixture between Black Hawk Down, District 9, and Cloverfield.

After aliens invade our planet, the American military is forced to mobilize and make a valiant last stand in the city of Los Angeles. Suddenly, teams of newly recruited marines are on the frontlines of a battle that they have no idea how to win.

The plot follows one such squad, under the command of Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). A decorated war hero, Nantz provides a pillar of support to the green soldiers and helpless civilians that surround him.

Eckhart is a natural as the American war hero: he has the square jaw and steely gaze of the kind that sprinkled recruitment posters during the World Wars. Nantz is not given a lot of depth in this movie, but in the few scenes where he’s not sprinting around and shooting aliens, Eckhart displays the emotions of his character well.

When I say there are few action-less scenes, I mean it. Soon after the movie starts, the squad is in the heat of battle, following orders to head towards a police station in Santa Monica, where civilians have been surrounded by aliens.

The way there and back is (obviously) fraught with peril. Alien aircraft, which can trace wireless communications signals, are constantly hovering above the battlefield, threatening to unleash a storm of firepower upon the squad. On the ground, the aliens themselves have weapons attached to their arms, and must be filled with bullets before finally dying.

The special effects are spectacular. In a movie where most of Los Angeles is burning, destroyed and swarming with aliens, designing these effects must have been incredibly time-consuming. The audience is treated to a number of panoramic shots of the city from above, and there is one sequence in particular which showcases the complex detail and beauty of the alien ships.

The aliens themselves, unfortunately, look bizarre. They are spindly, lanky creatures with few significant features or unique characteristics. Watching the soldiers stand up, shoot a generic alien, and duck behind cover gets boring by the end of the film. For many, it likely became boring a lot sooner than that.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Battle: Los Angeles, which is probably because it was designed for my demographic. I’ve grown up playing Call of Duty games that look exactly like this movie: you guide a battle-hardened squad on a seemingly impossible mission filled with explosions, reckless bravery, and the bantering of fellow soldiers.

Scenes in which the squad must ‘paint’ a certain target to guide a missile are especially reminiscent of the Modern Warfare games. Even the handheld, jolted camera angle is similar to first-person-shooters.

There is nothing wrong with turning your brain off for two hours and watching an action-packed, alien slugfest. Battle: Los Angeles is far from a perfect war movie, like Saving Private Ryan, but it has a good sense of what attracts people to the genre.

If you’re a fan of any first-person-shooter, you will appreciate this movie for re-creating the intensity and action that makes those games so popular. If not, I’d recommend staying away: there isn’t much depth beyond the firefight.