Directed by Jonathan Liebesman Written by Christopher Bertolini
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Cory Hardrict, Ne-Yo, and Michelle Rodriguez
Aliens and explosions should make for action movie greatness, but Battle: Los Angeles manages to screw the pooch on this one.
Science fiction films are known to forgo plot and character development for flashy special effects, and this movie is no exception. But visual magic can only do so much to improve a fundamentally weak film, and awe-inspiring scenes do not negate the need for likeable characters, good acting, and believable plotlines.
Battle: Los Angeles tells the story of a group of marines being sent into the hostile territory of Santa Monica to rescue any remaining civilians before the captured city is levelled by the U.S. Air Force. But even before the aliens invade, the film's problems are already glaring. The characters are so flat they border on stereotype: the young marine about to be married, the even younger marine who is terrified by the prospects of combat, the inexperienced commanding officer with a baby on the way, and the hardened veteran who is a couple of weeks away from retirement. Who knew they made cookie cutters large enough for movie marine clichés?
The characters are so boringly unsurprising that it's almost infuriating, and their paint-by-number development is worsened by the fact that no one in the film can actually act. The emotional climax of the film should have been the confrontation between Corporal Jason Lockett (Cory Hardrict) and Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). Nantz is suspected of being responsible for the death of Lockett's older brother, who was under Nantz's command on a previous tour. But even with a premise as gripping as the death of a family member, the scene is nothing more than an opportunity for Eckhart to show off his pearly whites, gritting his teeth while droning on about his supposed regrets.
Beyond the nuances of what should have been an exceptionally compelling scene, the actions of the detachment of soldiers as a whole are consistently absurd, and their reactions during combat are constantly over-the-top. The death of an alien is always met with cheers, and the death of a marine is always met with tears — without fail.
But, ultimately, this movie is about aliens and shit being blown up, right? On that note, Battle: Los Angeles does look pretty cool. The combat scenes move at a thrilling pace, the aliens are pretty gnarly, and yes, there are a lot of explosions. Unfortunately, all this is pointless when there is really nothing beyond the movie's special effects to hold it together.
Computer-generated imagery was heralded as a cinematic revolution. It was supposed to shorten and simplify the divide between audience and creator by allowing a filmmaker to expose an audience to the extremity of their imagination without the limitations of reality, as we know it. Unfortunately, in the case of Battle: Los Angeles, even a limitless special effects budget could not have saved the film from its multitude of other problems. Thus, Battle: Los Angeles minus your time makes for a good decision.