Find this review on ScreenComment.com!
“Battle: Los Angeles” can be summed up entirely by its title: blunt and to-the-point. Though I was dubious about the director (Jonathan Liebesman), who has now made not one but two films with colons in their titles (the other being the excremental “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”), I was pleasantly surprised by “Battle.” It’s fun, exciting, and just sci-fi-y enough to keep things interesting. That it has precisely nothing to say isn’t really a bad thing—it’s a big, loud, CGI film, and if that’s what you’re in the mood for, you’ll be perfectly content.
“Battle” stars Aaron Eckhart as a has-been Marine Staff Sargeant just getting ready to quit the service after 20 years. His last tour involved several of his men being killed, and rumors about his competence as a leader are flying. Unfortunately for him, just as he’s ready for retirement, aliens show up and lay siege to planet Earth. Without knowing what they’re up against, the military is mobilized to move civilians away from the California coast in advance of a bomb drop. Eckhart, who has held his own in the past against the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman and, ahem, Katie Holmes, finds himself in over his head with the beasts and with his new platoon of Marines, none of whom are ready to trust him. Much testosterone-laden male bonding ensues and, of course, man eventually prevails, though not without what must be a record number of fiery explosions.
The aliens themselves are a strange combination of slimy anthropomorphism and jarring mechanization; they seem to be only partly organic, with huge guns and flame throwers built directly into their limbs. In a strange, liminal moment in the narrative, Eckhart and costar Michelle Rodriguez (very underutilized) drag a wounded alien into a building and proceed to stab every part of it they can identify to determine what will kill it. While reminiscent of earlier, clunkier aliens in films like “Independence Day” (1996) or even “Signs” (2002), “Battle’s” complete indifference to its extraterrestrials feels a little strange, especially after the masterpiece that was “District 9” (2009). As Eckhart tears the alien apart with his bare hands I couldn’t help but think, is this a war crime? Is it atrocity?
Clearly, one isn’t supposed to read that deeply into a film that, I point out again, has a colon in its title. Nevertheless, the fault in “Battle” is its complete and utter lack of any sort of message, political, philosophical or otherwise. While I’m not asking that every big-budget alien flick contain some subversive social missive (watch out, “Cowboys and Aliens”), it would be nice if it took more than a gratuitous “ooh-rah!” to sum up the entire movie. Then again, it’s almost summer—soon, we’ll be faced with much, much worse.
“Battle: Los Angeles” is currently in wide release.