The alien invasion films are all slowly becoming the same, leaving nothing to the imagination. The latest to enter the fray is Battle: Los Angeles which many are saying is Black Hawk Down with aliens. While the analogies are correct there’s very little depth to the characters in this movie and nothing memorable whatsoever, short of a headache. The movie is fun for the first few minutes but boils down to a bunch of people going from A to B with no recognition between any of them.
A group of Marines are sent out to rescue civilians in Los Angeles when aliens invade. All the men have a story, including Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) who is set for retirement after losing his men in Iraq. When time is precious and they find a group of civilians, Nantz and his men must band together to make it out of the city alive.
The gritty undercurrent that runs through Battle: LA sets it apart from other alien films for a few minutes. There’s a heavy focus on news coverage, but it also shows the military presence that would surely be felt if anything, either human or otherwise, invaded our shores. At times the movie is extremely pro-American, on par with something made during WWII, in presenting the “Marines don’t quit attitude” and other American messages that are shown. The fact that the movie presents these aliens are “foreigners” invading leaves the audience with a sobering image of what would happen if we fought a war here; it would certainly leave us decimated no matter what. The comparisons to Black Hawk Down are also warranted as the movie gets down in the dirt with the Marines and is constantly making you wonder who will live or die. Quite a few of the deaths in this film are unexpected and it’s nice that they took a chance on not exactly presenting a clear-cut list of survivors.
For all its grittiness, the movie just doesn’t feel like anything more than an alien movie. A lot of this has to do with how little you’ll care about the Marines themselves. Eckhart is the only recognizable face to audiences, and here he plays the typical growling older man who’s getting too old for…well you know the line. He knows he’s meant to retire and spends the majority of the film giving pep talks and feeling bad about his time in Iraq. The other actors are completely expendable, that’s if you remember their names. Even rereading the synopsis for this movie I was looking back trying to place names with faces. All you need to know about the characters is presented in a few single images. There’s a guy about to be a father, a guy with PTSD, a soldier who’s too young, etc. The fact that you confuse who they are throughout shows they needed far more time devoted to character development than aliens. The camera is also incredibly shaky. Not on par with Cloverfield but if you don’t take some seasickness pills I advise you to sit as far back as possible, this is a tortuous bumpy ride. The aliens are also nothing to write home about, they’ve been seen in far better films.
As you can probably tell I didn’t enjoy Battle: LA. A shaky invasion story that tries too hard to say “Yay America” without developing any reason for you to care about the Marines. Eckhart has done far better work and needs to find a story where he’s actually a person of substance.