Posted by: greercn | March 15, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Aliens and monsters in movies are usually good fun to watch. You can get elements of horror and bits of space travel.  “Monster” and “Skyline” owed much of their success to a sustained sense of “threat from other worlds” and had intriguing special effects and lots of suspense.

So, I am a little puzzled by “Battle: Los Angeles”. For a purported $100 million budget, you get a pretty good war movie. But it’s not a monster movie.

There are oodles of aliens. But they are curiously Doctor Who or animation-based, rather than the standard of “District 9”. For all their metal, they are surprisingly wooden.

The story is that meteor showers are landing and – no surprise – they hide an enormous army of creatures who are a long way from friendly “Paul” or “ET”. These close encounters are not pleasant.

Send in the Marines. After that, you get homage – you know the drill – to buddies who went through bad stuff in other wars, guys leaving the armed forces (after just one more day) and the old “just survive this battle and you can go get married” plot.

If you remember those iconic scenes where the heroes are up above on the ruins, looking down on the battles, you will find a few of those familiar camera shots here.

You know those TV movies called “Meteor 9” or “Earthquake 10”? there are uncomfortable reminders of those and just a little whiff of ham.

Every film I see lately seems to have a key plot element about water. Just in case you didn’t know, there are regular water shortages in much of California. If you ever want to torture a Californian, play the sound of gushing water during your phone call to them and tell them it’s your tap. The schools raise them to ration water.

“Battle: Los Angeles” is very Californian and deeply American. This is not bad. It captures some of the zeitgeist and the depth of fear that Americans have about being invaded.

Spectacular action scenes make up for some of the irritations in occasionally feeling preached at, while watching an advertisement for the Marines. Things blow up, catch fire and explode in enormous special effects. Most of these are brilliant, although there is some clear CGI here than may annoy you.

Should you see it? Aaron Eckhart stars and he is very good. If you like violent war movies with a lot of action and if you’re an Aaron fan, do catch it. Despite some reputed last-minute script doctoring, lots of the dialogue feels stilted.

Just as the opening credits rolled, a tall man with the biggest head of hair I have ever seen decided to sit in front of me. I moved. He managed to slouch across three seats through the whole movie. Impressive, really. I had moved far away enough that he did not impede my view, but the hair had a planet of its own that was almost as interesting as anything on the screen.

People were arguing about it afterwards, so they must have been grabbed by it. The Stratford Picturehouse was packed with very noisy young men, so I guess that’s the target demographic.

Downbeat times calle for gloomy messages and this film is fixated on bad things. It certainly gets extra marks from me for its big action, sense of claustrophobia and aerial scenes. But I think I was hoping for a monster movie.

I note today that “Hereafter” has been pulled out of cinemas in Japan, because of its very realistic tsunami scenes. I don’t much like censorship, but I can see the reason behind this decision.



  1. What I have found fascinating is the shift in what we expect aliens to look like now. On Monster, Skyline and this one, they look like octopi or some other sea creature with some stiffness added to help them move across the land. This, a friend has told me, is due to evolving speculation by those who know more than I do on where we are going in our own evolution. It seems that we are headed toward land squid.

    • True – although I think these aliens are still the Cybermen side of seafood. It’s funny to think there is a movie consensus that we are evolving into sea creatures. Jules Verne predicted all this first. It would be so good to see a really intelligent and engrossing take on our future, with or without tentacles.

  2. I enjoyed the film for what it is, but didn’t have great expectations to begin with – just a love of alien invasion movies! It really felt like a video game to me. There would be some shooting, then a boss. Then more shooting, then a bigger boss. And so on. As with so many films, the first half was so much better than the second, and the initial invasion was done really well.

  3. Despite the review, the genre of this film never much appealed tome, so I dunno. On the other hand, I laughed out loud at your suggestion on how to torture a Californian (lovely, Greer!), and I enjoyed your remarks on the fellow filmgoer with the unusual hair. It will be ironic if he ends up looking like me in twenty years.

    • He will be very lucky if he looks like you in 20 years. You are a very handsome man. You also have an excellent brain. I do not think my unusual-haired movie-goer is much troubled by cerebral function, as long as his thumbs can have the required input to twitch texts out and scratch at himself. My Californian friends have grimaced and agreed that I describe how to torture them well. They hope my idea does not catch on, or they will need even more therapy.

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