Battle: L.A. is like Signs meets We Were Soldiers meets Independence Day. It is a mishmash of hand-held camera style filming and war scenes. A big budget ad to join the marines. Lots of unanswered questions here. If you want your questions answered, look elsewhere. Explosions at every turn and lots of silence in between. I mention the silence because I find myself impulsively covering my ears when there is silence in a movie. My brain instinctively knows that the movie is setting me up for a startle.
I didn’t read any reviews on this film before I saw it because I wanted to go in knowing only what the posters told me. I knew there would be aliens, I knew there would be spaceships, and I knew that Aaron Eckhart’s famous chin would have a starring role. Other than that, I knew nothing.
Remember that episode of The Simpsons with the “Yvan eht Nioj” video? That’s what watching this movie felt like. I did not know that the marines aspect of it would be so prevalent. Aaron Eckhart plays SSgt. Michael Nantz. We get the impression that he’s having the “I’m getting too old for this,” feeling right from the beginning.
As the movie presses on, the audience meets the other men who will go off to fight when the aliens land. In an introduction much like the one in We Were Soldiers, we meet the young kid with the bright future, the smarty-pants doctor, the scared guy, and the stiff upper-lipped 2nd Lt. William Martinez with a baby on the way played by Ramon Rodriguez. Nantz is attempting to bow out gracefully when all hell breaks loose. He is called back into action even though somewhere along the line of duty back in the day he lost some men.
Everyone appears to know this secret and they throw it in his face pretty consistently. Regardless of what happened in the past, we’ve got aliens to fight! So let’s get on with it! … please? I found myself saying this throughout the movie at points where it dragged and dribbled. The aliens themselves, while not all that impressive to look at, would blow the whole world to smithereens in a second. This makes it even more incredible that CNN managed to stay on air throughout the whole ordeal. The force with which they strike is overwhelming. One might watch this and think that if it were to go down this way in real life, we would all be goners. Curtains for all of us. That person would be right.
There is no way that we would survive an attack like the one demonstrated in Battle: Los Angeles. Ordinarily, there will be shots of famous landmarks burning to the ground or lighting up the sky in fantastic explosions. You’ll find none of that here.
For a decent chunk of the movie I was completely focused on the children. Whenever there is talk of the end of the world, I am always thinking first of my niece and nephew. I may have gotten choked up when the children were facing danger, but that was in fact the only part of the movie that moved me. And I do mean the only part.
There is another part of the movie that is there for the sole purpose of moving the viewer to tears and emotionally attaching the audience to the characters. I say, better luck next time.
Overall, the explosions were abundant and the sappy moments were too. In a movie like this one, I like the explosions to outweigh the sappy moments by a lot. Bridget Moynahan spends the entire film wearing the same lobotomized expression. Michelle Rodriguez plays the cool tomboy. And the rest of the cast does their part to make things as interesting as they can.
Few surprises, lackluster performances, lame aliens, and one decibel too many put Battle: L.A. in the “Eh, it was okay” category for me personally. Oh, and be sure to remember that climbing under the desk drill from grade school if this ever does happen. It won’t save you, but at least you can say you gave it your best shot.