“Battle: Los Angeles,” written by Chris Bertolini, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, 116 minutes, rated PG-13.
“Battle: Los Angeles” falls far from its ambition of merging “Black Hawk Down” with “War of the Worlds.” Instead, director Jonathan Liebesman (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The New Beginning”) takes the worst cliches from war and disaster movies, and mashes them into a sloppy, video-game inspired piece of military propaganda.
Mr. Liebesman, you are no Steven Spielberg or Ridley Scott.
The film opens as every alien-invasion movie does – foreign objects are on a trajectory toward Earth.
Aaron Eckhart plays Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz, a Marine on the cusp of retirement after losing several men on his last tour of duty. That retirement is put on hold, however, as the military wants all hands on deck to prepare for the meteorites striking off the coast of California.
Why would the military go to such extremes? Because those meteorites aren’t what they seem. They’re aliens threatening to wipe out humankind. Everyone accepts that, nods, and moves on.
Nantz is placed with a unit of young Marines, all of whom have heard the horror stories from his last tour of duty and hold Nantz responsible for much of what happened.
As the government plans to bomb Santa Monica to prevent the “infestation,” the men are given their orders: “Get the civilians and get the hell out of there.”
Most living in Santa Monica have already evacuated or have been killed. All, in fact, except four. So, let me get this straight: A highly trained Marine unit of 10 or 12 men is sent in to save four civilians while the world faces impending doom. To begin questioning the logic of “Battle: Los Angeles” would be a slippery slope that I’m not going down. For now, I’ll buy it.
What follows is a messy, first-person shooter with bravado to spare. The dialogue is just one step away from Marines shouting “Don’t you go dyin’ on me!” and although the special effects are impressive for its $70 million budget, the space invaders are completely uninspired and unidentifiable.
Worst of all, “Battle: Los Angeles” left me wondering what Aaron Eckhart was thinking. Here’s a talented actor who should have his pick of the lot, and he chooses the lead in a second-tier disaster movie? It doesn’t add up.
It’s a shame, too, because underneath the rubble of “Battle: Los Angeles,” there is the story of Sgt. Nantz’s redemption. But it’s lost in the film’s noise and chaos.