Independence Day, Cloverfield, The Day the Earth Stood Still, District 9, War of the Worlds; yes it would seem that we have a certain curiosity for life that is otherworldly. Heck even flicks like Predator, Men in Black & Superman are all alien related. From UFO’s to flying saucers to Martian Manhunters, we would all love to know if there is other life out there. Furthermore, we would love to know if it’s friendly. Until we receive some hardcore evidence of both, we have our books, television shows, independent You Tube video directors and by far, we have our movies. The latest and perhaps, yes, in my opinion one of the greatest to hit movie houses and midnight releases filled with patrons who apparently have no jobs to go to the next day is Battle: Los Angeles.
Aaron “Two-Face” Eckhart plays our main hero, Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz of the US Maine Corp. On the very verge of retirement, he is ordered to fall in with a group of young Marines sent to retrieve a small cluster of civilians who have been trapped by the unexpected attack of extra-terrestrials. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was thinking to himself, “FML” when he got the word he was going back into combat. What looks to be his last “Hoo-rah” takes place in, shocker, L.A. Looks like Kobe and the Lake show won’t be getting another chance to go for a title. Before you begin to think the aliens are Celtic fans, they have also invaded other major countries around the world. All of these places falling heavily and taking major losses at the hands, or whatever they use as hands, of these invaders.
The Marine platoon is led by 2nd Lieutenant William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), first in his class out of officer candidate school and without any real field experience. He tries his best but it can be seen that he wants to look to Nantz for guidance, who had 20 years of dedicated service but also lost men in his last skirmish with hostiles. The rest of his platoon, Corporal Kevin Harris (Ne-Yo), Air Force Technical Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) who got picked up along the way & Corporal Jason Lockett (Cory Hardict) whose brother was among the men Nantz lost, and other Marines all fall in behind their two higher ranking members ready to fight while trying to grasp the gravity of the situation. To make matters worse, they are all on a time crunch during their rescue mission; they have 2 hours to complete their objective before the Air Force deploys bombs that will wipe out the city of angels.
The cast playing the Marine troop whom we get to follow through the deserted streets of L.A. went through 3 weeks of boot camp training to prepare for their roles. In my opinion, it did them good. Very believable as a squad of tightly knit Marines, the cast move, communicate, strategize and take orders like in any other war/military movie. The mood and tone of the film also generates a sense of pride and dedication as they go about their unpredictable mission.
With this certain “unique” aspect brought into an invasion/sci-fi film, it somewhat sets itself apart from other films with similar plotlines. Instead of watching an alien movie with Earth’s occupants trying to defend it, it was like watching a war movie with aliens in it. The camera and film editing was pieced together in an in-your-face, part of the battle perspective as caught in most films containing military battles. Think movies like Saving Private Ryan, Tears of the Sun or The Kingdom. Director Jonathan Liebesman seemed to be going for a documentary type of feel with his camera direction and captured it at the right spots with an easy-to-be sucked-in screenplay written by Chris Bertolini.
The aliens themselves were a little different than those contained in other sci-fi films. The audience doesn’t get a direct view of them at first, no doubt to build up some suspense, but it works. Their attack units seemed very similar to that our Marine platoon sent in to do battle with them. They moved, took cover, backed each other up and fought just like our military does. They performed reconnaissance and arrived with different factions to perform their very effective attack on the cities of Earth. As a matter of fact, it would seem that the only thing different about them was that they weren’t human.
With many of the aliens and their vehicles created with CGI, the debate over superb special effects comes up. I feel the effects weren’t of the quality as say maybe ID4 but I also feel that they really didn’t have to be. The main point of this film was the way the main characters banded together and tried to combat their enemies. The over-all appearance of the alien ships and arsenal were enough for my approval. It didn’t rely on the proverbial green screen crutch to make it or break it. The amount of action contained in this film was the real star.
Originally brought to the attention of filmmakers, Greg and his brother Colin Strause, for them to input their special effect skills, by Sony, this film did just great without them. Their own flop Skyline which has a “coincidentally” very comparable plot, story as well as location would hit the canvas hard in the first round if these films were released on the same weekend.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film with everything from action to drama to action to comedy to the will of survival and back to action again. With its diverseness, it attracts Sci-Fi fans, alien fans and war movie fans alike. I may have to rethink my decision of attending midnight releases from now on however. It seems all of the rather rambunctious moviegoers come out at that time; people tossing (more like shooting) popcorn into each other’s mouths pre-movie, talking during the previews, allowing a balloon to float up on the screen towards the end of the film and a very hearty “F**k You aliens!” during the credits all found their way into my movie-going experience. Can’t wait to one day have my own private theater.
But all of that did not take away from a great film. I give Battle: Los Angeles “4.5 inspirational looks at our fighting military or one very long advertisement for the Marine Corp, however you choose to look at it out of 5”.
-“Who knows how to hot-wire a bus?”
-“Stavrou does Sir, he’s from New Jersey”