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Review: Battle: Los Angeles

It seems like March is quickly becoming the appetizer for summer blockbuster season and the most recent March release, Battle: Los Angeles, would be right at home among all the other blockbusters.  Despite having pretty much every war movie cliche you can think of, the action and special effects make Battle: Los Angeles an awesome thrill ride.

Scientists around the globe have been tracking multiple meteors approaching Earth and predict they will impact many coastal cities.  The Marines are called in to help with an evacuation but the evacuation quickly turns into a desperate defense of the city of Los Angeles when an invasion force of alien troops launches a worldwide assault.  Staff Sergeant Mike Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and his squad are sent on a rescue mission to find a group of civilians at a local Santa Monica police station and get them out before an airstrike levels the entire area.

The main negative aspect of the movie before I get to all the positives is that the dialogue and characters are all about as cliche as you can get.  There’s the rookie who starts freaking out, the guy getting married, the wise cracking tough guy, the disciplined doctor, the bad ass, etc.  Aaron Eckhart gets two cliched characteristics as the guy “one day from retirement” and also the guy who suffered some horrible tragedy on his last mission.  Fortunately Eckhart manages to quickly get rid of the retirement aspect as his character just accepts that he’s being pulled back in and does whatever shit needs to get done.  The second part of his character is slightly more clumsily handled as he bonds with a kid and is confronted by the brother of one of the men who died under his command.  Still, Eckhart definitely is one of the key aspects holding the movie together.

As far as positives go, the action and special effects are spectacular.  There are numerous amazing shots of the skyline of Los Angeles getting leveled by alien ships and one of the opening shots features the Marines getting flown in by helicopter and you can see this ever expanding line of smoke and fire creeping toward downtown.  Huge props to Jonathan Liebesman for having almost all the action take place during the daytime.  Lots of action movies lately fall into the trap of having most of their action take place at night and, combined with the shaky cam that is all the rage, makes it almost impossible to see anything.  You get a clear view of everything in Battle: Los Angeles and once the action kicks in, it’s almost non stop for the rest of the movie.

I also really liked the design of the aliens and their technology.  The aliens are sort of bio-mechanical hybrids and the movie constantly throws new pieces of their technology at you, starting with the grunts and leading up to the massive control ship.  I also appreciate the fact that they give you a fairly simple explanation for them wanting to attack Earth (they want our resources) and doesn’t get bogged down in trying to explain their intentions, which keeps the movie moving at a brisk pace.

If you’re a fan of war movies like Black Hawk Down or alien movies like District 9 and wondered what a mashup of the two genres would look like, look no further than Battle: Los Angeles.  It definitely satisfied my craving for big summer action and, if you’re an action/sci fi fan, it’s definitely worth a trip to the theater.

4.5 out of 5

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