"Battle: LA" is one of the biggest wastes of celluloid I have witnessed in a long time. Many filmmakers have made the same mistake and have got to learn the lesson of this film: All the special effects in the world will not make a film interesting if you don't care about the characters.
During the film's first 10 or 15 minutes, we are introduced to a variety of Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton. As each appears on screen, a title appears giving us their rank and name. And we watch each for a minute or two as we learn the one thing we will learn about them. One guy is planning a wedding and his fiancée is getting her way with every decision. One guy is a virgin. The new Lieutenant is a NEW Lieutenant and feels nervous. Everyone else just sort of blends into the wood work and we quickly forget who they are. As each of these introductions occurs, our attention is also partially diverted by the constant news pieces on the televisions in the background - meteors are predicted to hit Santa Monica in 24 hours. The only character we spend a 'significant' amount of time with is Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). Eckhart is the lead and the most recognized actor in the film, so we spend the most time with him. His story is our entry into this film. There is a lot of talk about how the Staff Sergeant lost the men in his platoon in Afghanistan. So when he joins this new platoon under the New Lieutenant, the men are dubious and don't trust him.
As soon as the aliens begin their attack, the platoon receives new orders. They are to make their way to a police substation in Venice and help the civilians who are trapped there make it out the 'Strike Zone'. They have three hours to accomplish this mission before the government begins dropping bombs on Santa Monica in an effort to kill the invading alien forces.
So, for the next hour and some odd minutes, the platoon battles an endless onslaught of aliens. The Marines shoot guns, grenades, rifles, grenade launchers, pistols, fire throwers, whatever they can get their hands on at the aliens as the men try to stay alive, try to stem the onslaught of the invaders and try to get to safety. But the aliens are relentless.
And the battle is relentless. The gunfire, explosions, fighting and violence never seem to end. It just never stops, never pauses, never gives us a moment to learn about the characters in the film.
Every line of dialogue is shouted. How else would we be able to hear them say anything with the cacophony of noise going on?
When they reach the police substation, some civilians join the group. This is supposed to make us feel empathy for the entire group, to make us care about their fate. But it is difficult to do this when you know nothing about the people. Really, all they do is add more noise, crying, shouting, exclaiming. Michael Pena plays a dad trying to keep his son alive. Bridget Moynahan plays a civilian female. Presumably, she is meant to counter the uber-butch female Marine played by Michelle Rodriguez.
"Battle: LA" would be a much better film if the aliens were even the least bit interesting. I really think there are only three different kinds of aliens in the film. These all make an appearance very early and then simply seem to multiply. In a better film, the Marines would face a specific type of alien, make some headway, than face a bigger alien, or a more threatening alien. This would ramp up the suspense and keep the viewer involved. But that is what would happen in a better film, not in "Battle: LA".
Many of the shots and ideas look as though they are lifted directly from the far, far better "District 9". In fact, the film is very, very similar, in many ways, to the very bad "Skyline" released late last year. The aliens look similar, their mission appears to be similar, their actions are almost exactly the same. Even the geographic location is very close. This very bad film can't even be an original bad film.
Actually, the worst thing about this movie might be a statement in the ads. "It's Only The Beginning." Presumably, that statement means if this piece of trash is deemed financially successful, we can expect other "Battles". It doesn't seem possible to me, but I recently learned they are already making a sequel to "Clash of the Titans". If that film was deemed sequel-worthy, we are definitely going to be subjected to more "Battles".
At the end of the screening I attended, people in the audience clapped. I was puzzled but realized they must have been thankful the film was finally over.
I should have given a standing ovation.