These times probably aren’t prime for a fun disaster flick — there are just too many real disasters going on in the real world. But Battle: Los Angeles comes along with a disaster we haven’t had in the headlines lately, namely, an alien invasion. The earth has water, the aliens from an unnamed planet want it and will take it by wiping us out, but we’re not going away without a fight. So let’s get ready to rumble…
The movie starts off with the alien invasion already underway worldwide with LA as the last city standing, and after a few minutes of character introduction to get to know your Marines, gets right into the action. You’ll spend the next two hours embedded in a Marine squad fighting the aliens street by street, house by house, block by block, as they rescue stranded civilians and then stage a climactic counter attack.
The combat is visceral thanks to the hand-held camerawork, to the point that if you’re susceptible to motion sickness, don’t see this film. Stay away. If Cloverfield made you sick, B:LA will too. Battle:LA is Black Hawk Down plus a strong dose of Halo. It features some of the best on-screen combat in several years, and probably the best ever in a pure sci-fi film. If only Lucas had figured out how to make that battle on Geonosis look half as good…but nobody cares about droids and clones, we care about people that seem real to us. Lucas forgot that characters matter; Battle: LA remembers.
If you can get past the freeswinging camerawork and don’t mind a film that’s light on plot, B:LA is a worthy way to spend a couple hours. The combat is very well done and the characters are plausible. The Marines, and later Army and Air Force troops, are uniformly depicted positively as self-sacrificing patriots who know what they’re about. They’re heroes with a capital H fighting for their country and leading the world to resist a savage enemy. That used to be the norm out of Hollywood, but in the post-Vietnam era such unambiguously positive depictions of the military have become less common. B:LA is definitely more John Wayne than Brian De Palma. If you see B:LA, look for the not so hidden Bible reference. You don’t see that in a Hollywood film everyday.
Aaron Echkart as the Marine leader, Staff Sgt Nantz, looks like a fightin’ swearin’ Mike Rowe and anchors the film with real strength. Michelle Rodriguez is her usual tough chick self as the Air Force recon troop. The aliens are ugly, mean, heavily armed and just begging for payback. The devil dogs deliver punch after punch, and when things can’t seem to get any worse, they shout “Retreat — HELL!” and fight on.
Battle: Los Angeles won’t win any awards, but it’s solid and fun and very patriotic and delivers one message very clearly: We’re the good guys.