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Battle: Los Angeles is an alien science fiction war movie that has got grimy US Marines, extraterrestrial cephalopods, alien technology, burning buildings, zapped freeways, and all of endangered humanity mixed in one big entertaining pot. It’s basically Starship Troopers meets Black Hawk Down meets District 9. I’d also add that this film reminds me a lot of Top Gun, only this time the poster boys are not from the Navy, but rather from the Marine Corps. I just can’t imagine what more can a sci-fi action movie junkie ask for. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), the film is the perfect capper to a busy week – if you love sci-fi action stuff.
Just a Bit of a Spoiler Part
The movie starts off with news footage and documentaries about early and recent UFO sightings from all over the planet. Finally, on August 2011, a formation of what looked like meteors is seen approaching Earth’s atmosphere. While all this is happening, the elements assigned to Camp Pendleton (the primary Marine Corps Base in Southern California) are busy going about their daily routines like running, smelling the flowers in the shop, playing golf in the dead of the night, and getting drunk on the golf course.
Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (played by Aaron Eckhart) is among these fine Marines. But as a veteran who’s hounded by a traumatic experience where he lost many men in his company during his last tour, he feels that he’s no longer an effective member of the corps. Besides, his age is an indication that he has become too old for his career (as implied by younger Marines leaving him behind during a morning run). Reluctantly, his immediate superior approves his early discharge.
Unfortunately for Ssgt. Nantz, the UFO sightings turn out to be an alien invasion and it is happening on the same day that his discharge from the service is approved. As a veteran Marine, he’s called back to service even before he can take off his uniform. Ssgt. Nantz is assigned to a new squad headed by a young lieutenant fresh from officer school. The staff sergeant has to fight not only to save Los Angeles from the aliens, but also to redeem his honor in the eyes of the young Marines under him who all have learned about his disastrous past.
After scouring part of Los Angeles to look for civilian survivors, Ssgt. Nantz’ squad are holed up in a police station where their extraction by helicopter has been set. Here, they find survivors Joe Rincon (Michael Peña), his son, a little girl, and a veterinarian named Michelle (Bridget Moynahan). US Air Force Technical Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) plus two or three others from her team also arrives in the scene and ultimately joins the Marine squad in the fight.
Critics say that Battle: Los Angeles is an overused mankind-versus-aliens formula. You know, humans coming in as underdogs with primitive technology but eventually defeating the alien invaders on the very last minute. Some also criticize the shaky close-quarter shots that bring to mind reality TV or YouTube style of filming. There are parts where even I can’t help but imagine the cameraman busy scratching his nose rather than focusing on the scenes. But most viewers tend to disagree with what critics have to say. The film debuted with gross ticket sales of $13.4 million and it presently holds the highest opening-day record for 2011.
If you can get over the cliché part, I’d dare say that this alien science fiction war movie is a gripping tale about humanity’s survival. Battle: Los Angeles really entertains. You do not have to waste precious brain neurons just to enjoy this movie, yet you won’t feel ripped off after it’s over. The action scenes and big explosions pop right off the screen and I don’t remember a part where the story gets bogged down by blah-blah-blahs – except when Ssgt. Nantz was giving his rallying speech to his remaining Marines, particularly to a teary-eyed Corporal Jason Lockett (Cory Hardrict) whose brother was among those killed during Ssgt. Nantz’ previous deployment. Overall, this is old-fashioned straightforward alien science fiction war movie with lots and lots of action in it. ‘Nuff said, just go get a ticket and a bucket of popcorn.