Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles manages to be enjoyable without being completely interesting or satisfying, like leftover pizza.

Battle: Los Angeles is not, by any measure, an original movie, yet it manages to be engaging. Movies about alien invasions have been done often enough and better. In Battle: Los Angeles, director Jonathan Liebesman does it a little differently: he takes the Cloverfield approach. Instead of presenting the big picture, the focus stays on a small battalion of soldiers and their fight for survival.

Staff Sargent Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has his retirement rejected when hostile aliens attack 20 major cities around the world, including Los Angeles, in a coordinated text-book style strike on humans. Nantz and his crew are tasked with evacuating civilians holed up in a police station before a scheduled drop of explosives on Los Angeles to wipe-out the aliens. With time running out, the soldiers must survive, fight and escape from an enemy that only wants to exterminate.

Instead of a big budget summer movie, Battle: Los Angeles is made as a war movie, albeit with aliens as the enemy. By adhering to the standards of the genre, the movie manages to be an odd combination of intense and ordinary. A tepid story and a screenplay populated with generic characters is only made further uninteresting by its predictability but is partially salvaged by some wonderful action sequences and imagery. The standard assortment of characters include soldiers who are white, black, Asian and Mexican, served complete with a rookie and a civilian doctor (she is a veterinarian in this case – they’re dealing with aliens, after all). To complete the clichéd package, the film also utilizes extensive hand-held camerawork, with shaky scenes that try to present sci-fi fantasy as realism.

Yet, even with these drawbacks, Battle: Los Angeles works for the most part. While it seems to be aimed squarely at testosterone-fuelled video-game junkies who enjoy their hours of in-battle action, the fight sequences are as intense as they are entertaining. Some of the concepts are well thought out. The aliens arrive on Earth via ships that decelerate with a bang just over the surface and the idea that they need to invade our planet for its one major resource: water. But other concepts are equally silly: the anatomy of the aliens for example and the way in which one faction of the aliens is eventually brought down.

As a misunderstood veteran war hero, Eckhart does not bring much to his role apart from a gravelly voice. Even Michelle Rodriguez, who relishes in tough-girl-performances, seems tired here. Though director Liebesman’s latest stands out as an admirable effort amongst his insipid repertoire, it will not do much to raise his credibility. Much like leftover pizza, Battle: Los Angeles manages to be enjoyable without being completely interesting or satisfying.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.