RSS Feed

Review – Battle: Los Angeles

Click poster for more info.

Click poster for more info.

With Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-Yo. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Rated PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language. 116 minutes.

Likely to be cheered or derided as simply a movie with lots of explosions, like the moronic “Transformers” movies, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES actually draws on two rich streams of movie genres, resulting in an exciting and provocative film. Perhaps it should have made those connections more explicit given the kneejerk reaction of many critics who consider science fiction movies as only about their special effects.

One obvious inspiration is “War Of The Worlds,” both for scenes where we see the city of Los Angeles laid to waste, but also for tapping into the original inspiration for author H.G. Wells. He wanted to give the British – then at the height of the Empire – a taste of their own medicine by making modern readers feel not like they ruled the world but as if they were the primitive locals overwhelmed by a superior force. In modern American terms, the mysterious aliens who are attacking coastal metropolises around the world are engaging in a campaign of “shock and awe.” We never really meet the aliens or understand their motives, although there is speculation they’re after our water. We simply know that humanity is in the way of their objective and mass destruction is their response.

The other source are all those war movies that are not about the generals planning the big battles, but the troops in the field who only know what’s right in front of them. In science fiction terms, an obvious predecessor is “Cloverfield” where the monster and the people fighting it are the backdrop to a group of friends trying to escape. This is not the epic scale of an “Independence Day;” this is the worm’s-eye view.

We meet a group of Marines stationed in California, including Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) who is feeling burnt-out after fighting in the Middle East. Not all of his men came back. He’s looking to finish his tour and get out. Very quickly, meteorites heading to Earth turn out to be alien spaceships, and they’re not looking to be friends. They start to raze cities around the globe.

The rest of the film is Nantz and the other troops trying to survive and get to an evacuation point. They rescue some civilians along the way. They try to figure out how to fight back. One of the toughest scenes is when they capture an alien soldier, their only goal being to figure out how to kill it. They rip open the body trying to find what organ is most vulnerable. That’s a sign that the filmmakers weren’t simply interested in the explosions, but thought about what fighting alien life forms might actually entail.

As often happens in war movies like this, we get quick sketches of the characters. It’s not like we need to know a lot about them. What identifies them is their Marine creed of leaving no one behind. Indeed the unit takes as its byword a quote attributed to World War I Captain Lloyd Williams, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” This is a movie about valor under fire and doing what is necessary to protect your comrade-in-arms. No one complained about “The Hurt Locker” being just about explosions.

“Battle: Los Angeles” may reflect the actions of people in combat but because it’s in a science fiction setting, it will be looked at as having the depth of a fireworks display. That’s a shame, as there’s a solid war film here, as well as the scary thought of what it might be like if we were the “collateral damage” instead of people in Iraq or Afghanistan.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.


About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

4 responses »

  1. “That’s a shame, as there’s a solid war film here, as well as the scary thought of what it might be like if we were the “collateral damage” instead of people in Iraq or Afghanistan.”?


    The people in the movie are exterminated on purpose and Al Qeada and the Taliban are the only ones purposely targeting civilians in both countries.

    Now it is possible you did not try to imply that American soldiers or policies are intentionally causing the collateral deaths, but the statement is unclear enough for many to take it that way.

  2. Im sure you would have more comments on here if people really wanted to give you the time. I guess me and the one other person on here decided to.

    YOU ARE A MOVIE CRITIC. Why in the world would you say something as ridiculous as this? If your against the war go start a blog on MSNBC, you should be yanked from here.

    Have you ever served in a war? Do you know what its like? Soldiers are your family on a battle field dying for morons like you. Karma is real and your comments will surely come back to you clown.

  3. Daniel M. Kimmel

    Both of you need to catch your breath and reread what I wrote. I said nothing disparaging of our troops. Quite the contrary.

    As for our not intending to have so much “collateral damage,” I suggest taking it up with the families in Iraq and Afghanistan to see if our good intentions are enough. My point was when your people are being slaughtered by invading troops their motivations really don’t matter and in the movie, there is only speculation as to the motives of the aliens. We never know for sure.

  4. An interesting review. Probably not enough to make me go see the movie, but having another take on this is much appreciated.

    To Steve: Isn’t “collateral damage” defined as the unintended deaths of civilians caused by military forces while attacking the opposing forces? It seems to me that Mr. Kimmel used precisely the term that says US soldiers were not targeting civilians. (I’m not sure that this is the case, but my opinion is another matter.)

    To “Your An Idiot”: well, your spelling and grammar pretty much tell the story. I will say, however, that the American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are NOT dying for me, or my family, or Mr. Kimmel. Or you, for that matter. They’re not getting rid of Al Qaida; they are causing further hatred of the US in Muslim lands; and they’re generally supporting corrupt and/or oppressive regimes under which many of our lives would be as much endangered as ever.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: