“Battle: LA” is movie you can take or leave, and for the most part, it’s worth leaving. There are parts to like in this movie, but poor writing, questionable CGI and shaky cam really put a damper on this one.As soon as the movie kicks off, you are alerted to the fact that aliens are landing all around the world, wreaking havoc on the human population. The story follows SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) as he leads a group of marines to rescue civilians trapped behind the alien lines. Over the course of the movie, the plot changes from a survival movie to over-the-top action thriller, reminiscent of “Independence Day,” without Will Smith and his snappy one-liners.
Following a brief introduction to the current situation, a flashback occurs, which serves to set the stage and acts as a roll call for characters. The roll call is essential because for the rest of the movie, the only marine’s name you will hear said in Nantz. On the other hand, it’s really a waste of time as over half of the people named will be dead in 30 minutes (it’s a war movie; these things happen).
The flashback very neatly rolls into the present as the marines find the group of civilians and from that point onwards, the movie is a non-stop, bullets-a-plenty shootfest. However, along the way, dramatic moments are shoehorned into the plot, which are largely inconsequential and just disrupt the flow of the movie. When you add in the awkward lines found during these periods, the product just leaves you feeling weird, rather than emotionally connected to anyone.
If “Battle: LA” just stuck with the action, which it does very well and is quite intense at times, it would have been so much better. In addition, while the movie obviously should be seen as a condemnation of colonialism, the sense that Westerners (the ones most readily at fault) should feel guilty never materializes. “Battle: LA” lacked the ability to evoke that same feeling of shame that “District 9” managed to create.
A theme on the opposite end of the heavy-handed spectrum was the patriotic theme. This movie is definitely pro-military, which is absolutely fine, but the patriotic theme is caked on so heavily you expect Toby Keith to show up and tell the marines to ‘put a boot in the ass of those aliens;’ or at least Spiderman to fly in front of a majestically waving American flag, despite there not being any wind.
Another issue with the movie was the design of the aliens. The CGI design of them was odd in that they cause you to register almost no emotion. They were a weird combination of metal and biological material. Again, the movie missed a chance to hammer home the idea of “shame on us for colonialism” by making them look more familiar.
Also a technical problem with “Battle: LA” was the use of shaky cam. During the fighting sequences, it worked well and was fine. However, during the non-combat scenes, it looked like the filmmakers used handy cams.
On some positive notes, Eckhart was perfectly cast and played the role of Nantz very well. In addition, all the main characters were played well, though that might be thanks in part to how few lines they, other than Nantz, had.
And, as I said before, the action was frantic and thrilling when the movie shifted gears into that mode. Watching “Battle: LA” on the big screen is the way to go.
However, these positives were not enough to bring this movie above the ‘below average’ threshold. “Battle: LA” is a summer action movie that came out a few weeks too early and just never really reaches its potential.
Final Grade: C-