Science fiction with neither meaning nor entertainment value
The loud, proud “Battle: Los Angeles” is deceptively framed as a science fiction yarn, when in truth, it’s a rah-rah, soldier-boy flick.
Movies traditionally make room for such tales, but not only does this one take us by surprise, it’s also surprisingly shallow. Though no documentary exists within the framework of this story, the narrative unfolds via shaky, handheld cams that make a series of stomach-churning sweeps to capture incomprehensible action.
We see that invading extraterrestrials are shooting at us, and we at them, though with one exception, it’s nearly impossible to grasp the layout of various battlegrounds around Santa Monica. Layers of smoke and frequent edits further disorient us and widen our disconnect from the characters.
Aaron Eckhart signs on as heroic, battle-weary Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz, pressed into service on the eve of his retirement. The veteran is given the unenviable task of advising inexperienced US Marine platoon leader William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez).
Michelle Rodriguez once again is stereotyped as a tough chick with a big heart. Her character is the sole survivor of a failed reconnaissance mission when she finds her way to Nantz’s platoon, performing its own mission of rescuing a group of civilians holed up in an overrun Santa Monica Police station. These survivors include a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan) and father (Michael Pena) attempting to keep his young son safe.
As the group makes its way back to a military base camp, we see television news footage of what appears to be meteor showers, but is actually aliens arriving at coastlines around the globe. To the horror of news casters, biological-machine hybrids emerge from the smoke, machine guns surgically attached to their forearms. The apparent goal of these invaders is to kill every human they can hunt down, although the soldiers, enslaved to their battle duties, are as pitiable as they are fearsome. I hoped at least one of these aliens would defect to our side and take the story in an interesting direction.
The film’s overbearing score seeks to manufacture the heart-in-the-throat pride that is missing from these two hours of “booyah.”
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