Battle: Los Angeles - Cinema Review

'there's 'ooh-rahs' by the bucket-load, patriotic speeches by the shed-load and propaganda for the US Marine Corps by the platoon-load'

In a World where the greatest threat appears to be from an over-saturation of science-fiction blockbusters, Battle: Los Angeles has had its fair share of negative press. It's hardly deserved. The trappings of the genre are all here; there's 'ooh-rahs' by the bucket-load, patriotic speeches by the shed-load and propaganda for the US Marine Corps by the platoon-load. If you think you're going to have a problem seeing past all that then no, you're not going to enjoy the film, which is unapologetically US-orientated and distinctly more action-packed than your common or garden variety cinema release.

If you can cope with all the accepted negatives - and they really should be 'accepted', there's no point in going in to this if you don't like lots of action in your alien flicks - then there's fun to be had in Jonathan Liebesman's film. Aaron Eckhart as protagonist Nantz is likable and more than adequate, proving that as an actor he can do pretty much anything; from indie-drama husband in Rabbit Hole, to nemesis in The Dark Knight, to hero here. The other 'names' in the film, Michael Peña and Michelle Rodriguez, are under-used and in Peña's case miss-cast (he surely should have been one of the squad members), but their presence is welcome and Rodriguez in particular shows more depth and vulnerability than her standard 'tough-but-sexy' character archetype.

The rest of Nantz's squad largely merge in to one. There are a couple who stand out come the end but if you can remember their names at the final whistle then you've done a better job than I. The fact that this is the case despite the ridiculous opening, which introduces each squad member individually with added subtitles to make doubly sure, is symptomatic of the fact that to the film makers, it really doesn't matter. This is a film about Marines doing good and who those Marines are individually is really beside the point, not that that helps an audience to connect with the characters on any real level.

Equally, the script doesn't do Liebesman any favours in selling this to the sceptical crowd. Christopher Bertolini, whose last major film was the similarly patriotic The General's Daughter, occasionally grinds in to full on exposition gear and when the dialogue isn't doing that, it's clunking along in near meaningless Marine-speak.

So, that's a not-great script, non-distinct characters and only one hero you can really root for then? Despite this though, on a really base level, watching people in fraught situations, shooting aliens with big guns is still fun. It might not have the brain power of a Moon or the humour of an Independence Day but it does look great, sound great and on more than one occasion it delivers great action goods of the highest pedigree.

Look further...

'There is nothing worse than watching a blockbuster that seems to reaching for something greater only to descend into brainless violence and ineffective thrills... Battle: Los Angeles rapidly becomes an exercise that is neither smart nor entertaining' - Movie Reviews By Tom Clift


  1. Spot on review. All the negative press is ridiculous. It is what is - what more do people want!?

  2. Thank you kindly and absolutely agree. I really don't understand the 1* reviews in particular.

  3. Love the review even though I don't agree in the slightest!

    My issues are the action with no sense of place. Over use of shaky cam for no other reason other than they can and just no heart at all amongst other things.

    ID4 is riddled with cliche but at least it has a certain charm to it. By the time this film slaps us round the face with it's umpteenth shoot-out (none of the set pieces stand out) I was well and truly bored. Eckhart does well with a nothing role however.

  4. Even though I obviously enjoyed the film more than you did I can see many of your points.

    There were no huge, grandstanding, set pieces which was a loss but I can remember the distinct movements between places where skirmishes occur; the claustrophobic residential neighbourhood, the police station, the bus, the elevated highway, the final battle, and to me each of those was interesting enough to hold my attention.

    Agree completely that the shaky cam used outside of the action scenes was a stupid decision (its used in the character introductions for God's sake) but I thought the film did generate a sense of place; the whole thing is sun-drenched and bleached out and I thought that brought the West coast vibe across quite well.

  5. When I say no sense of place I mean the action scenes are chaotic and not in a good way. It's understandable that they wish to give the disorientation that one would feel in the situation, however, the filmmakers forgot that we the audience still need a sense of direction within the action.

    Salon have a good article on it:

  6. Right, see what you mean and yes I saw that Salon article on IMDb. As I say, I can take the point on it to a degree but I personally didn't find it a huge problem. I don't disagree that some wider steadying shots of the battles could have benefited the photography but I'm arguing that its a good film, not a great one and as such it does have some problems. I certainly don't agree with their assertion that its 'obnoxiously photographed' or that the technique is 'utterly bankrupt' which sounds like traffic-grabbing hyperbole to me.

  7. I'll actually disagree with Byron; even though personally I didn't like the film overall, I did think the action was really good, and that the shaky cam style was generally well utilized.

    I had all the problems with the films that you acknowledge; weak characters, script, plotting, but the thing that really killed it was it's...well, in my review I called it "stupidity". I really like sci-fi films that can also make some kind of political commentary, and it seemed like in the first half BATTLE: LA was setting up this really interesting Iraq War analogy. But then in the second half it just fell on it's face into mindless "oh-raaing", and I was just enormously let down.

    I wrote about this issue in more detail in my review - I'd be really interested to hear what you think about this issue in particular

  8. Again, like Byron's, I can completely understand your criticism Tom. I think most of us like our science-fiction to be intelligent but my argument is that even when it isn't (or isn't in any way which distinguishes itself from the herd) there can be some entertainment to be had from the film in question; for me, this was BATTLE: LA.

  9. Yep. Pretty “meh.” Like the most banal and crappy combination of Independence Day and the Hurt Locker I’ve ever seen. In the end, it's just a video game, up on the screen. Good review, check out mine when you can please!

  10. Yes, the videogame analogy is a good one when it's used like that, which is to say that I understand it but don't necessarily think its a bad thing. As I say, its not a mega intelligent film but that doesn't mean that parts of it aren't a lot of fun.