There's a delicious irony in a major Hollywood studio making a film that effectively lays waste its host city. But that's what happens in the aptly titled "Battle: Los Angeles" (Columbia) in which seemingly no neighborhood of the City of Angels escapes destruction, either from invading aliens or our own military might.
"One thing is clear: The world is at war," intones a radio announcer as the film opens. And how: Chaos has encircled the globe. Though originally thought to be benign, meteorites falling off the coast of every country actually contain an alien army, mounting an invasion of the planet.
We're never told why the aliens are here, nor do we really get a good look at them. But their presence provides an excuse for endless violence and carnage, not to mention a great deal of noise.
We're also never told why Los Angeles is the last hope for humanity, the only city able to mount a counterattack. "We cannot lose L.A.!" barks a general. So it's time to call in the Marines, led by Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart).
A decorated combat veteran, Nantz is also fighting his own demons. Haunted by soldiers who died under his watch in the past, the present crisis offers him a chance for redemption, as well as the opportunity to expend a whole lot of ammunition.
As Nantz leads a platoon into the heart of the battle—there goes Santa Monica!—we learn a bit about the back stories of the other Marines. All the stock characters are present: the newly-married father-to-be; the rookie who longs to lose his virginity (he doesn't); the daredevil.
Michelle Rodriguez, memorable as a sassy fighter pilot in "Avatar," plays sassy Air Force pilot Elena Santos, who exclaims, memorably, "Kill anything that isn't human!"
Of course our brave soldiers stumble upon civilian survivors, including three adorable moppets, a turn of events that allows for a ratcheting up of emotion.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning"), "Battle: Los Angeles" is a pastiche, borrowing heavily in visual style and plot from several sci-fi films, including "War of the Worlds," "District 9," and, of course, "Independence Day." The story is neither unique nor compelling; it's just one tedious slog along what was formerly the beautiful California coast.
By the end of this film, viewers may share the sentiment of the platoon medic, who exclaims, "I'd rather be in Afghanistan!"
The film contains relentless action violence, gory images of carnage, at least one use of the F-word and some crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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