Unreal Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles

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

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  1. The War of the Worlds with Cruise? That can not even be put in the same category as Independence Day. That was probably one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

  2. I actually played the videogame based on this movie.
    It was a pile of shit.
    Your character moved at, like, one mile an hour when SPRINTING, and the aiming was so bad I had to root myself in place just to get a shot off at the aliens, all of which kindly stood completely still while I was blowing their faces in. There were two guns, both of which were terribly animated, the other soldiers walked like they all needed their diapers changed, the game kept pulling me around to look at the alien going RAAAAAARGH ten feet in front of me, the dialogue was crap (The only lines heard before, during, and after battle[LA!] were “Is anyone hit?” and “I’m Hit!”), and the cutscenes horribly animated comic book crap.
    Oh, and it had lens flare. Yay. Welcome to 2003.

  3. @rcunn87

    I actually thought Spielberg’s War of the Worlds was pretty good, and Rotten Tomatoes seems to agree. What were your issues with it?

  4. I only watched it once when it came out and the only thing I remember was wishing Dakota Fanning would just die already. The movie was basically her shrieking from start to finish.

  5. Like rcunn I spent all of the movie wanting Dakota Fanning to die – and I have young siblings and dont hate kids.

    I understand that during a real alien invasion certain people would just shut down and become useless screaming idiots, and that children would be the most likely to do that. But it is no fun to watch.

    Also why did the son come alive after taking on aliens with his fists?

  6. I really liked this movie, and this review make no justice to it… i visit this website mostly for the reviews, i like most of them, but this one isn´t fair with the movie…

    P.S: Skyline wasn´t mediocre, was plain crap…

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