I really wanted to like this film. I did. I was imagining this would be Hollywood’s first genuine attempt at an X-COM film in which humanity must band together to form a militarized response against a hostile alien threat. Instead, Battle: Los Angeles is a mostly unsatisfying look at what could’ve been an epic alien warfare film.
It’s easy to draw similarities between this film and Emmerich’s alien epic Independence Day, but it’s completely unfair and exactly what I’m going to do. In the first twenty minutes, we’re introduced to the squad of marines that we’ll end up following documentary-style throughout the film (fully expecting a U.S. Marine recruiting ID to pop up at any moment). In a zoom/rattle camera sequence that would make Paul Greengrass sick, Staff Sergeant Nantz (played by the needs-to-be-in-more-films Aaron Eckhart) is on his way out after twenty long years of service, but is inevitably stop-lossed to save the film from a chorus of bland characters.
What follows is an orgy of explosions and action as meteorites land off the coast of Los Angeles (and a variety of other coastal cities around the globe because, boring spoiler: the aliens want liquid water). Nantz must now lead his squad via the burned out streets of Santa Monica to evacuate the last civilians before a MOAB strike is supposed to level the entire neighborhood and the aliens’ advance. What follows is an hour and a half of what looks like an elaborate Ghost Recon mission with aliens. Now, I’m not against film mimicking games, but I was honestly expecting a load screen between each new encounter. The entire film plays out in near-real-time, feeling much more like an episode of The Pacific than a film that has BATTLE: LOS ANGELES as a title. Also, the air conditioner was drying my eyes, I wasn’t really crying as each marine was offed in some mundane manner.
The cheesy aliens, their chunky ships, and everything alien-related in this film about ALIENS INVADING EARTH is easily the worst part of this loud, dumb ass of a film. By the end, you’re not only burned out by this trudge through the urban jungle, but you also feel genuinely sorry for those poor marines being pinned down by aliens that look like gangly leprechauns with comically-shaped saucer helmets. The film’s climax is one MacBook short of ripping off Independence Day‘s ending entirely (minus the cool air fight sequences, and the Area 51 cut-aways, and…) which reminds you how much more satisfying and fun that film was and how much Battle: Los Angeles isn’t.