Aliens are attacking the world again. These ones are after our water. Aaron Eckhart was going to retire today, but instead leads a squadron to take down the alien menace. What started out as a simple recon/rescue mission ends up being a full-on attack against the alien command ship (which conveniently disables all of their tech in one fell swoop leaving it easy for the humans to win).
What’s the Problem?
Battle LA seems to have read the action/war-movie cliche handbook, and is determined to follow them all. The lead character was retiring that very day (what a coincidence), but goes out on one last mission (sigh) before he does. They pick up a few useless civilians. Their commander is inexperienced but was top of his class and gets handily killed off so Eckhart can lead the squad.
Also, it seems that they forgot to have a token female at the start. But don’t worry! They just “happen” to come across one who has vital intelligence – and that one female is Michelle Rodriguez no less, the hardened action chick who has played the same character in everything fom SWAT to Lost.
For some reason, our squad of heroes keep telling everyone to fall back to the air force base because this is a Safe Place. This would be excusable if civilians had said it, but surely the military would realise that an alien invasion force might just target our military bases. That being the case, a military base is about the least safe place they could go. Seems that none of our cast thought of this.
Just like it took them half an hour to work out that the aliens are tracking their radios every time they broadcast. That’s the mysterious reason they always attack you when you contact the base. Before it’s destroyed, that is…
And why do the characters forget that they’re carrying grenades for most of the film?
The aliens are here for our water, according to one news report. So where do they land? The deep ocean? No, that wolud be silly. They land in the water outside major cities and start a land-based war while they drain our oceans. Why bother? If the aliens have interstellar travel, they probably have the technology for deep-sea diving too. They could land in the middle of an ocean and start sucking out the water, or bomb us from orbit, or… anything except start a ground-based war where they lose any advantage their technology might have afforded them.
Aliens this dumb deserve to have their entire city-wide invasion force destroyed by a single troop of soldiers.
Not About Aliens!
The main problem with Battle LA, though, is that this isn’t an alien film. It’s a war film. You could replace “aliens” with “Russians and it wouldn’t change 90% of the film. The aliens brought with them a convenient fog, so for most of the shooting matches we can’t see what our heroes are fighting anyway. Even when they’re in the clear, the camera is in love with our heroes and refuses to show us shots of the enemy. It’s so busy being gritty and realistic that it forgets
Worse, the aliens are too human. They are:
- roughly man-sized;
- shoot projectile weapons (bullets) not plasma or funky alien-tech;
- have the same social and military ranks as humans;
- utilise the same tactics as humans;
- have similar divisions of air force and infantry;
- hell, they’re even right-handed!
And despite all of this, our heroes take five minutes of screen time cutting up an alien to find out how to kill it. Answer: shoot it in the chest. You know, like you have been doing.
There’s no teleporters. No invisibility. No giant robots. They’re never given motivation or personality. They’re cardboard cut-out baddies for our Good Ol’ American Heroes to shoot at. And then when they do, we have to watch the humans? Boring.
What’s the Solution?
I’m not sure, actually. This one may be beyond redemption. I’d like to see another big-budget alien war film, but you need to be able to see the aliens. Also, you need a smaller squad so you can get to know the characters. And the characters need to have… characters. And there need to be less cliches. And, you know, give the characters a brain. If you can’t afford one for each character, at least let them share one among the squad.
If you want a war movie, watch Saving Private Ryan.
If you want an alien film that has a point and in which you can see the aliens, watch District 9.
If you want an alien war film, watch Independence Day and laugh at the size of the mobile phones.