It's a good thing the film industry ended up in such a big city, because they sure love blowing the place up.
Earthquakes, volcanoes, alien spaceships, whatever -- take that, Los Angeles. With your warm days and your trees that just grow citrus fruit all year long like it's not even a thing. Yeah, that looks like the perfect weather, all right... in which to be incinerated by a space-dragon.
Disaster movies wouldn't seem a fraction as disastrous if Hollywood had taken root in Pokey, Indiana, population 581. You can only blow up Mr. Gunter's barn so many times before the audience gets restless. But when aliens roll in to wreck up the big city, as in Battle: Los Angeles, you never run out of new stuff to smash.
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Staff sergeant Aaron Eckhart has put in his notice to retire. But before he has the chance, strange meteors appear inbound for Earth. With just a few hours warning, the military determines they're alien vessels.
The alien force immediately overwhelms Santa Monica, prompting the military to schedule a citywide bombing. Before the area's reduced to rubble, Eckhart and his platoon are dispatched to rescue a group of civilians trapped inside alien territory.
Battle: Los Angeles is not the most original movie in the world. In fact, all you have to do to approximate the experience is buy three TVs, hang them on the same wall, and watch Independence Day, Saving Private Ryan, and Cloverfield all at the same time. And then hang yourself for buying three TVs, Captain Consumer. You're the reason we can't go outside anymore without masks and UV-blocking human hamster balls.
But as the rope twists and your vision slowly goes black, at least your final memories will be fond ones of a big, fun, explodey action movie.
Its efficient pace starts early on. In introducing his gaggle of Marines, writer Christopher Bertolini pulls off the curious trick of simultaneously making the soldiers feel like real people, capable of joking and worrying, and also loading them down with every dramatic cliche in the history of human drama. And possibly a few new ones stolen from the alien invaders. Old guy's about to retire, but instead he's thrust into the most dangerous situation in his life? Check. Guy about to get married? Yep. Another guy's wife is pregnant? Also yes. Hey, just to round out the platoon, you think we can throw in an innocent virgin and a young lieutenant beginning his first command? Sweet.
I don't know why they didn't include a big mean guy who cried when a bald-headed cancer boy asked him to shoot an alien for him. Must have ran out of space.
But all this drama doesn't really matter. Director Jonathan Liebesman doesn't play it up. It's just there, a quick way to humanize the men before they start dying. Which doesn't take long -- Battle: LA hops into the action pretty quick, proceeding with a well-paced and smoothly-edited string of skirmishes. It also focuses heavily on acts of supreme bad-assery by Eckhart, who could probably inspire a table to tap dance. Or my dog to stop ruining the carpet and use the neighbor's yard like he's supposed to.
The result is something with all the elements of a sack of trash -- cheap drama, ripped-off scenes, and a super-awesome fighting dude -- but the writing and direction are sharp enough to ignore all that and have a good time. Battle: Los Angeles is the kind of movie I can see myself buying on DVD and happily ignoring while I read about baseball instead.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com. His fiction is available on Kindle through Amazon.