a review by Derek Screen
The premise of Battle: Los Angeles is simple. This is our planet. Aliens want it. They try to take it. We fight back. There is nothing else.
Borrowing from a lot of other films such as Aliens, War of the Worlds, ID4 and even Saving Private Ryan and Blackhawk down, Battle: LA is full of bad clichés, scenes we have all seen before and very, very poor scripting. But we all knew this was going to be the case, didn’t we?
The story revolves around a Staff Sergeant who literally signed his retirement papers when the aliens start to land. Of course it goes without saying that he gets told to go with a platoon into the muck and save a bunch of civilians stuck behind enemy lines. We have the usual group of marines – the burly old sergeant, the fresh out of academy lieutenant, the hard-nosed sharp shooting female, the wiry and unsure soldier with glasses, and a bunch of other misfits that seem to have come from all walks of life, colour and creed. You KNOW if this was Star Trek, most of these guys would be wearing Red Shirts! They go into downtown Santa Monica and engage an enemy that simply wants to kill them. Regardless of the trouble and danger, they will do their best to survive and save the civilians.
The best thing about Battle: LA is that this is not your usual SF aliens invader movie. This is really a War movie with you IN the platoon thanks to modern handheld bouncing everywhere unsteady cam and you are fighting one on one with the aliens – aliens that look mostly human, mean and strong, but are just soldiers too and, in this case, seem to have learnt to shoot in the A-Team school of fighting.
The battle sequences – especially from the midst of it all – are fantastic and very well choreographed. The special effects, for the most part, are totally awesome and up there with the best, the music score fits in perfectly with the tone of the scenes and helps bring some sort of feeling to the soldiers that otherwise the script does not allow. Acting is also very good considering the poor dialogue and terrible clichés they have to cite. This is good because otherwise, you simply have no feeling for the characters as they try to simply survive and blend in to the background to do so.
There is also plenty of attention to detail if you look around. TV clips of news from around the world, parachutes falling after planes are shot down, bullet holes and divots during the action – not afterwards, even a glimpse of what the aliens might be here for – if you look and listen hard enough. The setting is superb! Blown up buildings, vehicles and aircraft litter the area these marines have to traverse and this makes life very interesting for them, both good and bad.
The critics have really panned this film. Some of them actually state that there is no social commentary in it and that it does not fit into the modern world of film. What a load of crap. Not all films made will win best picture. Not all films made will be about being a greenie or search for diplomatic outcomes. Some films, such as this one, are made for the sole purpose of escape. Leave your mind in neutral at the door and enjoy the explosions, the killing and the hopeless situations. This film is made for fun. I cannot understand some critics, I really can’t. They hated ID4, Godzilla, War of the worlds, 2012 and a slew of other SF based action adventure films, yet the population disagreed and went to them in droves. They are doing the same with Battle: LA.
If you want to see a great shoot them up, kill the aliens, very loud, very fast paced action film that will give you a good time and a feeling of accomplishment despite the things wrong with it, then go and see Battle: LA. If you want to see a social drama with carefully written script and Oscar potential, then don’t. And remember, this film is called BATTLE LA, not WAR LA, so don’t be shocked at the end. I know you won’t be.
My feeling is: ask your friends to see it with you or if they have seen it, what did they think. Don’t listen to these silly one sided critics who wouldn’t know a decent enjoyable action flick if it bit them on the bum.
8 out of 10
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.