- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Battle: Los Angeles
Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack
Studio: Columbia Pictures
US Rating: PG-13 for Sustained and Intense Action Sequences of War Violence and Destruction, and for Language
Film Length: 116 Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Release Date: June 14, 201
Review Date: June 15, 2011
“At fourteen forty six pacific standard time, twelve different locations across the globe were breached in what appears to have been a coordinated attack by an unknown enemy. This is a textbook military invasion. We are the last offensive force on the west coast. We cannot lose Los Angeles.”
Battle: Los Angeles represents quite succinctly the misstep of action films frequenting multiplexes today. The preoccupation with weaving ‘some kind of story’ throughout pillar sequences of awe and impressive visual effects, at the expense of a story core upon which we can hang our cares, is par for the course. But despite the rather emotionally hollow proceedings, there is much to rally around in Director Jonathon Liebesman’s alien invasion film. Intense action, incredibly brisk pacing, and a crew of American Marines digging in to bring down a technically superior foe all makes for good fun – even if it leaves you wondering what could have been if the script and plot had been considerably better.
The Film: 3.5 out of 5
On the day he announces his intentions to leave the Marines (after a long career overshadowed by the loss of his platoon in Iraq under his leadership), Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckart) is placed back in compant when strange meteors are detected on an approach course to Earth. These objects soon reveal themselves to be a full-scale planetary invasion. A hostile enemy seeking the eradication of human existence topple city after city across the United States – and the world. A fast-paced invasion draws tenuous battle lines and in less than 24 hours, the battle line for the West Coast is etched on the edge of Los Angeles. A marine squad is dispatched into the city to rescue stranded civilians before a major bomb-focused offensive is launched. The clock is ticking and the enemy unknown.
In the 1950’s at the height of the Red Scare in the United States - fears of communist infiltrators from the Soviet Union subverting the American way of life - tales of these fears, and the bravery and fortitude of the American resolve, were explored through an incredible collection of allegorical science fiction films. The most memorable were those that substituted invaders from outer space (or Martians from the ‘Red’ planet); in classic tales such as Red Planet Mars, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and Invaders from Mars (among many others). But allegory isn’t even a fleeting thought in Battle: Los Angeles. America, engaged in two wars for much of the last decade, has failed to produce anything remotely like the war films of World War II – or even Vietnam (The Hurt Locker, though critically praised, was largely ignored by cinemagoers). Battle: Los Angeles doesn’t try to draw parallels to the current conflict, but it perhaps provides a different storytelling paradigm within which we can root for the American Marine without the complications of the political and often touchy subject of Iraq or Afghanistan.
Early comparisons to James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens – an incredible accomplishment – are grossly overstated. Besides a stock group of Marines running the gamut of professionalism and stability under pressure, Battle bypasses the central humanizing element of Cameron’s classic – Ripley and Newt. Without civilians with who were are familiar, are fully-fleshed, and for whom serve as a proxy of the audience amidst the terror, Battle merely exists as a 90 minute action sequence with lulls for requisite, but half-matured human drama.
Battle: Los Angeles does strike a good tone for an alien invasion action film. Sliding away from the popcorn pyrotechnics of comparable subject matter films Independence Day and War of the World, Battle: LA moves into a quasi-documentarian style, taking the viewer into the confusion and chaos of running battles and the rails of fear and emotion running through them. This is an effective tool for a while, moving the frame up, over, into and out of sight of some pretty good visual efftc, but unlike films designed to use the technique to convey the inexperience of the amateur with the camera (Cloverfield, Trollhunters), the method doesn’t always suit the moment. Thinking back to James Cameron’s Aliens (which I should mention is my all-time favorite film), shoulder camera’s on the marines – with feeds back to the armored RV where the ‘green’ Lt. Gorman grossly mishandled the operation – gave that same sense of action chaos. These images in Aliens were used with great effect, for a time and for a purpose, before more traditional filmmaking took over. District 9 used a similar technique employed, but again, it was more useful to the story and conducive to the plot. Battle: Los Angeles – using the documentary style – begins very strong and draws the audience in very quickly, but cedes ground almost as quickly.
The action can be intense. Exploiting the documentary styling, the frenzy of warfare becomes a gripping sight, with frenetic and feverish engagements with an alien foe with vastly superior armament and the stronger strategic position, there are genuinely white-knuckle moments. But by the time the credits roll and reflection on the experience begins, there’s precious little by way of an emotional journey of which to take stock of. Aaron Eckhart’s hardened but venerable and edge-worn Sgt. Michael Nantz is the highlight of the picture. A genuine onscreen presence and an ability to cement even the weakest of his lines, Eckhart brings a gravitas to the picture that makes him the man upon which we sink our teeth. The rest of the characters fail to standout, though there was great promise in R&B artist Ne-Yo’s Cpl. Kevin Harris – a soon to be married, slightly nerdy and likeable guy, and in Michelle Rodriguez’ TSgt. Elena Santos – a lightly hardened survivor of a failed Air Force mission. As civilians, Bridget Moynahan’s Michele and Michael Peña’s Joe Rincon (Peña is a fine actor often utterly underused), are provided to give us folk more relatable, but neither add very much.
The Video: 4.5 out of 5
Framed at 2.40:1 in 1080p High Definition, Sony has released yet another fine Blu-Ray. The detail is superb, film texture preserved (relative to the Panavision cameras and Kodak film stock on which it was filmed). Given the documentary style, close-ups of character faces are frequent and in such moments the level of detail is never clearer. At times I feel like I’m standing just inches from the real Aaron Eckart. The color palette is replete with a heightened contrast, awash in bleached sandy tones, and the stone grey of freeways and overpasses is quite dominant.
Black levels are deep and there is no evidence of digital over-tinkering.
The Sound: 5 out of 5
The bold boom and bang of the healthy 5.1 DTS-HD audio will attempt to raze your home theater, but even the nuances of a good sound design are clean and clear. Directional surround effects are frequent and crisp, dialogue in the center channel is at the right level given the loudness of the explosions, firefights and overhead sounds of frequent military helicopter flights. An excellent audio presentation that will remind you of how much money you have sunk in your sound system!
The Extras: 3 out of 5
All extras are presented in 1080p HD and are okay at best. No audio commentary, reasonable dissection of the material and the significant creative influences is wanting.
Blu-Ray Exclusive Featurettes:
Directing the Battle
The Freeway Battle
Command Control - Command and control your viewing experience by watching Picture-in-Picture, Storyboard Comparisons and Battle Points within the context of the movie.
- Behind The Battle
- Aliens in LA
- Preparing for Battle
- Creating L.A. in LA
DVD version of the film
Despite my criticisms, I had a blast watching Battle: Los Angeles. I am a glutton for alien invasion flicks – even the cheap and bad ones (Skyline, anyone). I just wish I cared more about the outcome, or was given more character development to invest in the people. This is worthy of your time, even if it’s just a rental. But know what you are getting; a far cry from Aliens, smaller in scale and scope than Independence Day, and lacking the originality and power of District 9. Understand that and you’ll enjoy this film.
Overall 3.5 out of 5