Alien invasion movie Battle: Los Angeles offers noise, images, words
– review by Shawn Conner
Battle: Los Angeles is a confounding movie – or, rather, it’s a type of confounding movie. If you go into it just to be entertained – and really, why else would you? – you could almost be tricked into thinking it’s done its job. There are moments of suspense, things blow up real good, and at certain points the action slows down just enough for a ray of character development to poke through. But there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.
To be fair, a whole chunk of Battle: Los Angeles goes by at a brisk pace, if you leave your brain at home (which goes without saying). If you need a plot summary: aliens land off the coasts of several major cities. In Los Angeles, the killer machines from outer space, who have the same graceful, languorous movements we’ve come to know and love from space invaders, quickly decimate the city (alas, no scenes of major studios getting smashed).
Only a small band of intrepid marines, with a few civilians thrown in for good measure – “Hey, let’s cut to the kid again, to remind the audience that he’s still in the movie and there’s a child’s life at stake” – led by Aaron Eckhart and trapped behind enemy lines, can stop them. Bridget Moynahan plays a cute veterinarian.
Shot with the kind of shaky “you-are-there” camera-work that is now commonplace for war movies, Battle: Los Angeles is a cross between War of the Worlds (Spielberg version) and Black Hawk Down, set to a two-hour-long soundtrack of a machine gun. The hack behind all the mayhem is Jonathan Liebesman, whose previous work includes such classics as Darkness Falls, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel, and something called The Killing Room. So he brings a light touch to the material, then.
Actually, it’s only when the machine gun stops that Battle: Los Angeles comes to a crashing, gear-grinding halt. Because that’s when the actors trade sweaty grimaces and dialogue about self-sacrifice and valour, trying desperately to ground this CGI nonsense with some sense of humanity. Even Eckhart’s heroic chin is unable to prop up this gibberish, which just serves to remind us how devoid of anything even remotely human this movie is.