Battle: Los Angeles is quite simply the best video game movie I’ve ever seen. Ignoring the fact that it isn’t actually based on one, the way it translates cutscenes, level progression, enemy infantry types, boss fights, would make any gamer proud.
This really is some sort of bizarre combination of Modern Warfare and Killzone, where you take the role of Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a retiring Marine who recently lost a man on a harrowing mission which he barely survived. He’s joined by a rag tag crew of misfits, the engaged guy, the African guy, the virgin guy, the guy with a mustache, the redneck guy, and the girl no one wants there and the bunch of you singlehandedly turn the tide in the war against some recently arrived aliens.
Who are they? What do you they want? They’re some sort of bizarre mech-bio hybrids with spaceships that look like they were assembled out of Kinex. Despite the fact that they have traveled here from another star system, they’re content with using what appear to be fairly standard bullets and rockets. They’re heavily armored, but don’t worry, they have a weak point you can shoot for a one hit kill.
The levels get progressively more difficult. First it’s just battling a few different aliens in suburbia, then it’s a blowout on a freeway overpass where they have artillery backup, followed by an escort mission where you must protect civilians and are only allowed one casualty or else you have to start over. There’s even a freaking sewer level.
****ing sewer levels.
Finally with all other forces pulled out, you and your elite unit try to take on the central hub with laser guided airstrikes and rocket launches, and if you do so, you will ensure the battle is won.
In each and every scene of Battle LA, you can see a video game. The paltry backstories and the wooden dialogue make up what would be cutscenes, but mainly the entire affair is an onslaught of non-stop combat that would be a perfect fit in any current generation title.
Unfortunately, though perfectly conforming your plot and action sequences might be impressive in some way, that does not necessarily translate into a good movie, and it certainly doesn’t in this case. From start to finish, you won’t stop being reminded of better entries into this genre, Independence Day, War of the Worlds, hell, even the mediocre Skyline from last year was trying to innovate in a few places.
But here there’s nothing new to see. Yes, the aliens look different, but not in a good way. I can handle them using bullets and rockets like us primitive earth cavemen, but both the infantry units and airships are so terribly overdesigned you can’t even make out what they’re supposed to really look like. You rarely get a clear shot of them, not in a Cloverfield “hide the monster” sort of way, but more likely because they don’t want you to see how ridiculous they actually look.
Michelle Rodriguez’s “Are you serious?” face.
The combat is intense, and occurs for approximately 90% of the film. I suppose that’s something you’d want from a movie called Battle: Los Angeles, but it’s on par with Michael Bay’s Transformers movies in terms of being a sensory overload.
There’s no mystery (they’re here for our water, and they don’t like us), so there’s nothing to really uncover. The film acts like a big mystery is revealed when they discover a central command center that should be targeted for the win (why do all aliens seem to tie all their attack forces to a singular unit? We don’t even do that and we can’t even get to Mars). But the fact is this bit of info had been known from the start, though the film chooses to ignore that once the champagne comes out.
I did appreciate Aaron Eckhart in the lead here. He’s one of the few redeeming things about the film, and it was interesting to see him in a grizzled hardass action hero role. Overlooking the terrible lines he was given, he brings a certain intensity to the part and with his buzz cut looks more like a Marine than almost every actor I’ve seen try to take on the role.
Will Smith he ain’t, but he brings a certain authority to proceedings.
In the end, there’s nothing to see here but a lot of explosions and poorly designed aliens. There’s no comedy of Independence Day, no attention to cinematography like War of the Worlds. There’s just very little new at all in the movie, but I’ll be damned if someone didn’t give me a controller, I’d have one hell of a time playing it on my Xbox.
2 out of 5 stars