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2011_battle_los_angeles_011Given the content of the film “Battle: Los Angeles,” the new alien invader movie starring Aaron Eckhart, it’s surprising it isn’t subtitled “Marine Recruitment Movie.”

The movie begins with the hoariest of clichés, the battle weary Marine, Michael Nantz (Eckhart), thrown into the biggest fight of his life just hours after he has announced his retirement. His mission is to lead a group of soldiers against some well-armed ETs who have captured every major port city in the world. As the title suggests, his job is to save Los Angeles.

The first twenty-five minutes or so of the film is spent with the Marine characters; getting to know the folks we’re going to be spending the next two hours with. But instead of meeting believable people we are handed a roll call direct form Central Casting with dialogue that sounds like it was written by an actual G.I. Joe doll. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s relentless shakey-cam tries to distract the eye from the total lack of anything interesting going on with the characters but simply clutters the screen with jittery images.

Then things start to blow up and for the next hour-and-a-half there is a fairly constant video game barrage of bullets and bombs and dialogue like, “You kill anything that is not human!”

The movie’s pace certainly picks up from here, but the story doesn’t get much more interesting. Liebesman breaks a few of the rules regarding alien action movies. Firstly: He shows too many humans, not enough aliens. We can see humans anywhere—look out a window! Turn on the TV! Aliens, not so much. Too often in “Battle: Los Angeles” the extraterrestrials are obscured by smoke or so far in the distance it’s hard to get a good look at them.

Secondly, and this doesn’t just apply to alien invasion flicks but to all action movies, show us the action. Sure there is lots of action on screen and the soundtrack is filled with kabooms and pows, but the images are so frenetic it’s often hard to tell who is shooting who.

Lastly, all the great alien invasion movies are actually about something other than aliens. Recently, for instance, “District 9” was a potent mix of space invaders and apartheid. Any search for subtext here, however, will be met with disappointment, as “Battle: Los Angeles” simply plays like an only sporadically entertaining Marines propaganda film.


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