Note: this review was originally published on March 20, 2011
Every movie has its place in cinema; not all can be Oscar contenders in the drama categories, so movies like Battle Los Angeles have to be judged differently from, say, The King’s Speech. One has to give it some leeway in terms of plot and character development, because it is clear movies like this sacrifice those things for the sake of spectacular action. And this movie has action from beginning to end, which is good to some people and overwhelming for others. I’m in that second group. Even though I like movies that begin with a bang and keep moving, if that action doesn’t take a breather now and then to allow the story to surface, my mind starts to drift as if activating a mental screensaver and I get lost in la la land. This is something purely personal and as I said it doesn’t bother lots of other people, and in the case of Battle Los Angeles it had to be that way since the main story takes place in the span of less than a day. There’s simply no time for character development and their interactions (which is pretty much the case for life in big cities like Los Angeles now that I come to think of it).
The “plot” is simple: a small platoon of marines must try to rescue a group of civilians stuck in Santa Monica and get out before the Air Force destroys the place to wipe out the alien invaders there. The next hour and a half consists of said marines trying to escape the chaos while Los Angeles is taken by the extraterrestrials (which, I must say, are the crappiest I have seen in a long time). In the end, of course, the marines go from defense to offense and this is where you can see the influence of Battle LA’s adoptive father, with an ending that will leave Starship Troopers with a strange sense of deja vu.
The movie never tries to be original. What’s more, it never tries to cover up its lack of originality. Its mission, like the marines, is simple: entertain. And just like the marines, it accomplishes its mission, but not without some casualties along the way.