Battle: Los Angeles

The only thing worse than L.A. freeway traffic is having aliens blow up the freeway on the drive home

Aliens coming to Earth is something that, whether you’ll openly admit it or not, you’ve probably thought about at some point. If you honestly haven’t, you can scratch off “Hollywood Executive” from your list of potential careers, because it seems that aliens coming to Earth composes about half of what goes through the average executive’s head.

The latest to make its way to the big screen? Aaron Eckhart battles aliens that have touched down in Los Angeles in the aptly titled Battle: Los Angeles.

Battle is so cliché it’s comical, but it’s forgivable because the action isn’t too bogged down in setting up back stories no viewer honestly cares about. If I’m going to Battle: Los Angeles, I’m not looking for exposition on par with The Piano — I’m looking for stuff blowing up. Literally, as much stuff as can be blown up on camera in two hours.

Amongst the clichés is the retiring military veteran getting called in for one last job (which obviously goes wrong), the young commander overwhelmed by real-world combat (who happens to have a pregnant wife at home), the young soldier barely out of high school, the civilians who eventually rise to heroism themselves, and the ‘ah-ha!’ moment where the human race suddenly finds a way to overcome the alien conquerors.

Don’t act like that last one is a spoiler. What, did you think the aliens win?

It’s supposed to humanize him, to show his scars from past battles and men lost, but all it does is make you wish something would blow up and interrupt him so we can get back to the action.

The main issue with the film, though, is its bizarre pacing. It begins in the midst of a battle, then jumps to a flashback, then catches up to where it began all in the opening ten minutes or so. That’s fine, but why start with a battle in the first place? The flashback only introduced the interchangeable marines who would serve as cannon fodder for the alien invaders anyway. Couldn’t that have been done without the flashback?

The other major pacing folly comes in the middle of the film as aliens run amok and overtake L.A., at which point Staff Sergeant Mike Nantz (Eckhart) decides to have a series of heart-to-heart conversations with his remaining team. It’s supposed to humanize him, to show his scars from past battles and men lost, but all it does is make you wish something would blow up and interrupt him so we can get back to the action.

In spite of those concerns, there are positives. The effects are top notch, the destruction of Los Angeles seems eerily real and the writers didn’t take the easy way out of every situation. The aliens are not the usual indestructible monsters seen in these films, but rather creatures that can be taken down with an appropriately placed shot. In fact, a scene where Nantz and a civilian veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan) attempt to discover biological weaknesses in the enemy is clever enough to warrant mention, and also helps to drive the action from that point on in the film.

Overall Battle: Los Angeles is standard fare and it has its flaws, but if you’re paying to see it and hoping to get The King’s Speech, it’s probably you who is the problem in the equation. If it’s explosions and the good guys winning that you’re looking for, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

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