Aaron Eckhart in Battle Los Angeles (2011)

It's a Battle to Watch

There is a line in "Battle Los Angeles" which goes "That was some new John Wayne shit, Staff Sgt." and it got me thinking what would this movie had been like if John Wayne had been in it. Sounds daft but whilst to my knowledge John Wayne didn't do any alien battle movies he did star in quite a few military movies where he would lead a platoon of men a daring mission and give us some heroics which is basically what this is but with the bells and whistles of modern CGI. In the end imagining John Wayne battling aliens ended up far more entertaining than "Battle Los Angeles" which has the basis to be a good movie but is ruined by the camera work and editing which does jerky handheld to overkill.

After a 20 year career of ups and downs Marine Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart - Love Happens) is about to start a new life away from the military, a scary proposition as military is all he knows. But his retirement is put on hold as Earth has come under attack from Aliens and in America they are on the verge of taking Los Angeles. Drafted to Lt. Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) platoon their mission is to rescue survivors trapped in the city with a 3 hour countdown before the Air Force bombs the hell out of the place.

Michelle Rodriguez in Battle Los Angeles (2011)

Ignore the special effects, the aggravating camera work and the fact that we have Aliens attacking earth, yet again, and what you have left is a very old storyline. We have a group of marines battling through a war zone to rescue a group of civilians, the journey is hazardous as they get split up, they find other soldiers, people die and have to find a clever way of not only getting out but being marines a way to bring down the enemy so that America can lead the way in saving the Earth, yet again. And just as typically the focus of the movie Staff Sergeant Nantz has a past, a previous mission saw some of his men killed and the marines in this platoon blame him for the loss as he got out alive. Everything about the basic storyline is as old as the cows and as I said could easily have been the basis of a John Wayne movie.

But of course "Battle Los Angeles" is a modern alien movie, an often used theme where for no apparent reason they have decided to invade Earth and kill all humans. As this is very much an old fashioned action movie the reasoning isn't essential but it certainly would have helped. And to be honest better special effects would have helped because what was offered was underwhelming especially when it came to the actual aliens who we rarely see close up. That is the thing about the special effects, it is very much a movie which wants to wow with the big CGI effects, the explosions in the sky, the UFOs zooming over head and so on which in fairness all look impressive but it is all distance shot and when ever things get close the jerky camera work makes sure it is all a blur so that you barely see anything.

That is the biggest problem with "Battle Los Angeles" the flipping jerky, handheld camera work as it is too much. Maybe those with an attention problem with love the fact that the camera shakes all the time, pans quickly, judders in and so on but it killed the movie. I expect the intention was for it to feel like we were in the middle of the action with them but the end result just didn't work.

As for the acting, well I could tell you who was in the move; there was Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan and rent-an-action chick Michelle Rodriguez but none of them have characters to play. Like the motivation for the alien attack we never get to know these characters and so we never connect with them.

What this all boils down to is that "Battle Los Angeles" could have been a good movie if it wasn't for the overkill use of the handheld, jerky camera. But that camera work ruins the movie and made it at times unwatchable.