Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Premise: When aliens invade Los Angeles, killing and destroying everything in their path, a platoon of Marines attempt to rescue civilians.
What Works: Battle: Los Angeles is a war film with a science fiction premise and as a slam-bang-shoot-‘em-up action thrill ride it works. With just enough exposition at the opening to establish characters and their relationships, the film gets going and does not stop until the very end. Although it is a science fiction picture, the alien presence is secondary, and could easily be replaced with any number of regular siege film antagonists, be it zombies, religious fundamentalists, antigovernment extremists, or an invading country. The aliens here are a stand in for the bogymen of the moment. Battle: Los Angeles does not make us think about the who or the why of the invasion any more than the filmmakers behind Top Gun made its audience think about the who is flying the enemy jets. Although the metaphor is largely hollow, it is important to remember that the film isn’t asking us to think about it either. This is a United States Marines recruitment film expanded to two hours and pumped full of adrenaline, intended to thrill the audience while they eat popcorn, and evaluated in those terms it succeeds.
What Doesn’t: Like a lot of these kinds of overcharged action films, Battle: Los Angeles gets a little nauseating about halfway through. The constantly frantic editing and shaky, handheld camerawork are appropriately disorienting but eventually they lose their power and by the end viewers will likely find themselves numb to the action instead of roused or fearful of it. There are a lot of clichés in Battle: Los Angeles as visuals and set pieces reference, imitate, or in some cases rip off other movies such as Aliens, Black Hawk Down, District 9, Independence Day, and The Matrix Revolutions. In many ways Battle: Los Angeles is very similar to last year’s Skyline, although Battle: Los Angeles in many ways has the upper hand in terms of storytelling.
Bottom Line: Although it is derivative and a little shallow on substance, Battle: Los Angeles is very well made and fans of war and action films or shooter videogames ought to check it out.
Episode: #331 (March 20, 2011)