You're already privy to everything you need to know about Battle: Los Angeles. It has aliens. It has explosions. It has Aaron Eckhart using his most gruff voice to lead a platoon to protect Los Angeles against said aliens and said explosions. All that can be gleaned from the trailer, and unfortunately, the full experience doesn't go much deeper than the preview, leaving us a film with a lot of bark and no bite.
Set in the not-so-distant future of August 2011, the film takes us to — wait for it — Los Angeles, where Marine staff sergeant Michael Nantz (Eckhart) is ready to be discharged after 20 years of service and a recent stint in Iraq that cost him the lives of a few of his men, not to mention the respect from the rest of his platoon. But Michael is forced to change his plans and rise to the occasion when major cities around the globe fall under alien attack, and LA is next on the hit parade.
To find out why the movie falls flat, just read more.
The first fifteen minute minutes of the film are a feeble attempt to connect the audience to the characters they're about to spend two hours with, but the introductions are glossed over so quickly that it's hard to care about which Marines are getting blown up and which are still fighting to save the city. Michael's need to prove himself as a leader is meant to be a major conflict, but he's so dry and brusque that his feats of courage aren't as fun to watch when you don't feel any attachment to the character.
Director Jonathan Liebesman uses every trick in the book for the events that follow. Shaky hand-held camera work is meant to make you feel like you're a part of the action, but it only gave me a headache. A couple of civilians and children are thrown into the mix to make the film hit closer to home (it doesn't). Michelle Rodriguez shows up to act as the film's token tough chick, a role she can probably play in her sleep. Even the occasional joke referencing "extraterritorials" or lines about kicking some alien butt provide cheap laughs, but feel forced and tired.
The movie is chock-full of gratuitous fight scenes as the robotic-looking aliens and their advanced weapon system wreak havoc on the city of angels. The aliens look cool enough, but the story of what they're doing on earth or where they come from is barely touched upon. With little backstory on the marines and no mystery behind the unexpected enemy, Battle: Los Angeles is only marginally more interesting than watching a video game that you aren't playing.
There's something to be said for a mindless blockbuster, but in an age where films like District 9 have pushed the limits of sci-fi action movies, why play it safe? Explosions and special effects can only go so far without a real story to illustrate, making Battle: LA an utterly mediocre movie that fails to push the limits.