DVD Release Date: June 14, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: March 11, 2011
Rating: R (for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and strong language)
Genre: Action
Run Time: 116 min.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Cory Hardrict, Ne-Yo, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Michael Pena

Battle: Los Angeles is exactly what you think it is. This big-budget invasion flick offers no surprises but, if you’re into this sort of thing, provides exactly what you’re hoping for: things blowed up real good and some patriotic machismo.

Set in the needlessly-dated time of August 2011 (a pseudo-“what if?” immediacy that will be lost soon enough … which may speak to the studio’s own lack of faith in the film’s shelf-life), the story opens as all the world’s major cities are under attack by an unknown alien fleet. After this brief action-tease, the narrative flashes back 24 hours to establish the troops from one L.A.-based platoon that is about to be unexpectedly thrust from boot camp training into intergalactic warfare—though, as Marines, the operation will keep their boots squarely on the ground.

This initial stretch plods along episodically as we are introduced to each character through exposition-laden conversations too perfectly informative for their own good, all designed to establish yet another typical crew of stereotypes: one’s getting engaged, another’s a virgin, several know how to party, while another vows to carry on the legacy of his fallen soldier brother.

The men who will lead them are equally stock: one’s the retiring sergeant, the other a green lieutenant fresh out of officer school, both with something to prove. Yawn. Every character is a standard prototype, as is the screenplay’s entire construct and rote dialogue (lines like “This is not a drill!” and “Hold the line!” are standard, and usually shouted). But at least the special effects aren’t lazy.

Once the alien invasion is full-on, Battle: Los Angeles barrels forward as an Independence Day meets Black Hawk Down hybrid. The attack is global and the landscape is filled by the extra-terrestrial onslaught, yet instead of jumping around between countries, narratives, and an embattled U.S. president, this story exclusively focuses on the one Marine platoon and their half-combat/half-rescue mission through the burning ruins of L.A.

The steady kinetic grittiness makes the otherwise formulaic narrative passable (though still occasionally annoying).Troops engage in various shootouts with the oncoming aliens (mostly seen at a distance, and never presented as more than scary slimy creatures with laser guns), trying to drive the enemy back as they pick up a few innocent pedestrians along the way. 

Some live and others die as the platoon attempts to bring the civilians safely to a base camp for evacuation transport. The whole trek plays out like little more than a live-action version of “Call of Duty” with familiar genre beats. If a soldier writes a note to his wife, you know eventually someone else will have to deliver it for him. If another needs some redemption from previous mistakes, he will of course be given that opportunity and succeed. Various others will struggle with doubt amidst melodramatic anger and tears, occasionally challenging someone’s resolve in face-to-face confrontations, only to summon courage and unity moments later (usually with the help of an impromptu inspirational speech).