Review: Battle: Los Angeles


Before heading out to my screening of Battle: Los Angeles tonight I looked around a bit at some of the early reviews that were hitting. Not my normal practice as I usually like to go into these things blind, but some of them had been brought to my attention because they were so vehemently bashing the film as pretty much everything that is wrong with movies ever. This struck me a bit odd as from what I had seen the film looked at least somewhat enjoyable because of aliens and soldiers shooting at each other.

Now that I’ve seen the movie I can really only say one thing to the people who thought that this, this random aliens attacking earth movie, was so bad it hurt: get the damn stick out of your ass.

I can easily understand the argument presented that Battle: Los Angeles represent everything that is wrong with Hollywood today. To put it bluntly there isn’t an original bone in this entire film. It’s plot has been used a thousand times. Its screenplay probably doesn’t have an original sentence in it. Its characters are so racially diverse that it almost becomes racist again. Its shaky camera is cobbled straight out of real war films. Its lead is a ridiculously handsome, blonde, all American. It has more rallying speeches than a Tea Party convention and just as many emotional deaths. This is almost the exact movie a computer would spit out if you asked it to make you a blockbuster movie with aliens in it.

So yes, this is the epitome of everything you hate about Hollywood, but no that does not make Battle: LA unwatchable. There’s a reason the computer would spit out all the aforementioned cliches and that’s because they work and while Battle: LA doesn’t do anything to make them work amazingly well it certainly doesn’t do anything to make them truly and totally suck. This is an alien action flick at its stupidest, and it functions just fine as that.

Here’s the premise: aliens attack Los Angeles (and the rest of the world, but who cares). SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and his newly trained marines — all of whom we get about ten seconds of back story on so we can really care — are sucked into the battle. We follow them as they attempt to save a group of civilians stranded in the battle zone while aliens attack and pretty much kick the military’s ass. There’s more in there, but I’ve already described too much anyway. Let’s go back to the basics: aliens attack Los Angeles. Really, that’s all you need to know.

Now, when I say that Battle: LA is stupid, I absolutely mean it. There is nothing special or unique about this film in any way whatsoever. Director Jonathan Liebesman does almost nothing special for the entire film, but the action is still clear and intense enough to keep you interested even if the dialog is so full of constant exposition that you wonder if the screenplay was intended for those with short term memory loss. I was easily entertained by the explosions and gun battles that took place throughout, and even found myself secretly cheering once or twice at the appropriately cued and perfectly timed “cheer now” moments. This is despite the fact that almost every single aspect of this film is relentlessly set to whatever ideal Hollywood executives have of exactly what should happen in a movie.

I was, however, a bit more disappointed in the alien’s design. They’re a strange cross between Predators and Aliens with some steampunk influences. They actually just looked a bit awkward when it came down to it and you could never quite get a grasp on how they were supposed to function or operate. I suppose one could argue that that would be the exact nature of an alien, but I’d rather have mine be a bit more recognizable, thank you very much. Luckily all the aliens do is stand there and shoot and then stand there and get shot and then stand there and get shot some more. There is literally no attempt to make these aliens anything more than horrible creatures, and I have to say I’m fine with that. Sometimes you just need a bit of “bad guys vs. good guys.” Sure it’s nice to have films with gray areas, but every once in a while you just want some soldiers to start shooting some aliens that you know are evil assholes.

Let me not get too carry away and suggest that this is going to become your new favorite alien film of all time. There are way to many loopholes and contrivances to every really suck you in to loving this film. Plus, the relentless stealing of ideas and styles from almost every other alien movie ever made will eventually drive you to think about those other alien films that were so much better than this one. But since we’re now calling a spade a spade, let’s admit that this is a fun enough spade to enjoy.

Battle: Los Angeles might be incredibly depressing in terms of the state of film making in Hollywood if you think about it, but you’re not supposed to think about. That’s the mistake: thinking. If you want to think, rent War of the Worlds (the original, please), if you just want to see a special effects laden piece of crap movie then by all means buy a matinee ticket and have a ball at Battle: Los Angeles. Just remember to remove anything you’ve got up your rear end beforehand.

6.95 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.