Battle: Los Angeles is an alien invasion movie directed by Jonathan Liebesman and starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan. The film has been advertising itself as District 9 meets Black Hawk Down and I can see where it gets elements from Black Hawk Down, but I can’t see the relation to District 9, besides the fact that it deals with aliens, which in that case it could be compared to dozens of movies. I’d call this film Skyline meets Black Hawk Down for two reasons, one because the special effect guys on this film ended up going off and making Skyline to try and capitalize on the alien invading California plot and two because both Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles make me share a similar feeling of disappointment. Skyline could have been good if The Brothers Strause tried hiring real actors that could you know….act, but instead they put all of their money into the special effects budget which left them with a horrible story about a group of people in a building and we were the lucky ones that got to witness there every move. Battle: Los Angeles ups the ante and gives us an aliens invading California plot in the eyes of the Marines. So now we are almost promised tons of action in the form of alien warfare, but the problem Battle: LA seems to have is the over acting by the macho Marine characters and the feeling of not feeling quite original.
Battle: LA follows a group of Marines around California as they complete several objects, like escorting civilians to safety and bombing an alien base. The film really does play out like a video game. Its objects are very clear, which doesn’t help the story from feeling a tad on the predictable side. Now a predictable story can only be saved by some great performances and sadly Battle: LA doesn’t feature any. I’ll give Aaron Eckhart credit for playing the tough staff sergeant, but he tends to overplay the bad ass with his use of deep voice and constant motivational speeches. He looked like he really did work out for the role and he would pass as a normal soldier, but I’m not sure if I would be comfortable following orders from a guy that I could beat in a 50 yard dash. (Okay I can’t beat him in a dash, but the rest of the platoon can!)
One thing Battle: LA did get right were the visuals. The Brothers Strause are special effect gods. They really do know how to make a destroyed California filled with smoke and ash. I found the best parts of the film being the zoomed out shots of the whole city burning and aliens swooping around on their cool looking crafts. Something about the hopelessness made me smile and some might say that is an early indicator of mental problems.
The alien creatures were interesting with a more mechanical base instead of the usual big heads and slimy/scaly approach. They looked like combat grunts that were ready to take over a planet and I liked that about them. They seemed like they were programed for killing and nothing else. This is where the District 9 comparison pissed me off. District 9 managed to make CGI alien characters feel like real characters with excellent performances. You felt for the aliens in that film and you really wanted to see them rise up and overcome the humans. I’ve never seen a movie that captured those sorts of emotions with a CGI character and Battle: LA is nothing close to that. The aliens are cool looking, but that’s about it. They have no emotions whatsoever and the only reason you enjoy seeing them on the screen is so that they can get blasted away by a human holstering a rocket launcher.
Another problem that this film has is its official MPAA rating. How can you make a war film that consists of aliens slaughtering humans for the first half of the film with a PG13 rating? That alone can cause the film to feel very unrealistic. There should be some sort of rule in Hollywood that says all war films that consist of scenes involving actual combat should be rated R. No one wants a watered down version of war, we want to see the guts spill all over the street!
Battle: LA is a decent film as far as going to the theaters and watching things blow up, but after you get passed the special effects and war violence there really isn’t much left to enjoy. When it comes to alien films it doesn’t bring anything new that we haven’t seen and when it comes to war films there are tons of much better quality films, which leaves Battle: LA somewhere in that middle ground. It’s not horrible, but it certainly isn’t going to be on anyone’s top 10 list for the year.
One positive thing about Battle: Los Angeles is its Blu-ray release, which has a stunning picture transfer. Every bit of detail can be seen in this transfer. The film contains a lot of gray scenery and it hasn’t looked any better until this release. All of the dirt and grime can be seen in full clarity and the explosions and alien effects light up the screen with very bright colors. The black levels are very strong and the textures of just about anything can be seen with full detail. Sony nearly knocked this one out of the park.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is one of the clearest and most powerful tracks I have ever heard. It’s reference quality in almost every battle scene. The dialogue comes across crisp and clear and the chaos of war is displayed on all speakers. Gun shots fire from the front and shoot across to the back speakers allowing for the viewer to be fully submerged into the war zone. Sony has provided us with one of the best war audio tracks to date.
Battle: LA features a wide spread of special features. Including a few making of documentaries, storyboards, cast and crew interviews, trailers for upcoming Sony titles and quite a few features about how the cast physically prepared themselves for their tough roles. A full list of features can be viewed below:
Command Control: A storyboard comparison that pops up in a new window and occasionally features clips and mini-featurettes.
Behind the Battle: (HD, 7 minutes): Crew discusses the story of Marines battling aliens in war.
Aliens in L.A. (HD, 18 minutes): Detailed look at the alien designs for the film.
Preparing for Battle (HD, 5 minutes): A look at how the actors prepared for their roles.
Boot Camp (HD, 10 minutes): The cast and crew discuss the boot camp styled training they went through to prepare for the film.
Creating L.A. in LA (HD, 5 minutes): A look at how they created sets in Louisiana to look like a war stricken Los Angeles.
Directing the Battle (HD, 6 minutes): A look at director Jonathan Liebesman’s presentations that landed him the film.
The Freeway Battle (HD, 5 minutes): A cast and crew video with a behind-the-scenes look on how they filmed one of the most important action scenes of the film.
Previews (HD): Trailers for upcoming Sony films.
Battle: Los Angeles PS3 wallpaper.
Overall, Battle: Los Angeles is a forgettable war film and a not so great alien film. It definitely has its moments, but none that amount to making this film anything better than a boring watch on a slow afternoon. The special effects are great and luckily the Blu-ray transfer is top notch thanks to Sony. It features a very strong picture and a reference quality audio track that is guaranteed to wake the neighbors. The special features show the dedication that the crew had in this film as far as physically preparing, but why couldn’t they have transformed that into good acting? Oh well, since Battle: Los Angeles fails at being a great film it can always claim itself as the best damn commercial I have ever seen for the Marines. If you weren’t a fan of this film, but like to have a good disc on hand to show off the new setup to friends then grab the Blu-ray when it drops in price, but the film alone isn’t worth anything higher than a rental.
Movie – 7.5/10
Video – 9/10
Audio – 10/10
Special Features – 7/10
Click here to purchase Battle: Los Angeles from Amazon.com