Movie Monday: Battle: Los Angeles


This weeks Movie Monday post is on this movie which is not too far from being what I think could have been a great film, a little like Skyline but this one did work a little better.

***Minor Spoilers***

Simply this is an alien invasion movie that tries to be Black Hawk Down, but with aliens. It starts during the invasion then rewinds to the previous day where we meet Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz who is about to retire but the invasion comes and he is put into a platoon that is not his regular one and he is not well liked within this platoon because he was the sole survivor of an incident where a brother of one of this platoon died. The platoon is commanded by an officer who passed out top of his class, just recently.

They are assigned to go to a police station in the hostile zone and rescue some civilians who had been left there. Along the way they encounter the enemy and engage in a small fire fight. Once at the station they call in a helicopter pickup, but as the helicopter is lifting off with injured Marines (no civilians) It is blown out of the sky by the alien aircraft. Before this point the aliens had not deployed any aerial units. This changes the conflict, giving the invaders an advantage. So the Marines have to get to the safe zone by other means. They are in a hurry because the U.S. Air Force is going to Carpet Bomb that region. So after catching a wounded alien and slicing it up to find the best way to kill it they hot wire a bus and make their way to the freeway. In the process they discover that the aliens are tracking their movements by the radios they are using. Nantz uses this to lure in and blow up one of the alien drones.

Unfortunately they have to abandon the bus and go on foot to somewhere that is safe as they will not make it to the safe zone before the bombing begins. They loose their commanding officer in the process, and the way he dies it looks like Nantz has left him behind so he can survive.

I’ll leave the plot there and let you find out what happens yourselves.

I like the idea of this one. It does not focus on the bigger picture but on the human side of the fight. This for me saves this movie. Whereas Skyline did not make me feel for the characters this one does. Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Staff Sergeant Nantz saves this movie. A few of the cast do help but it is Eckhart who I felt for most in this movie. The action is not bad and I like some of the aspect of the aliens and how they are operating.

The story is okay, a little thin in places, annoying in others. What I did find a little annoying is that there are too many clichés in this movie. The experienced Sergeant who is about to retire who is well decorated, but his last mission did not go well. The inexperienced Lieutenant who dies, the aliens who are almost unbeatable. The marines who have a problem with the sergeant and so on. One thing that I felt was a little clumsy was that all the Marines call Nantz Staff Sergeant. Not sarge or Sargeant, but Staff Sergeant. If someone could tell me is this how Marines in the U.S. talk to their N.C.O’s?

That said though I do enjoy watching this movie, The acting is not bad, the directing is not either. The plot is a little simple and direct but I think its acceptable, but It is Eckhart who carries this movie.

Is it worth a watch? Yes. Could it have been better? Yes, but it’s better than a lot of rubbish out there at the moment.

How Science Fiction Films have Influenced Me : Alien Invasion

The last few new alien invasion films that I’ve seen have left me thinking different things about this part of the genre and how I look at my own fiction.  Aside from Project Phoenix I have two other active alien invasion stories going so this is obviously something that gets my attention.  There was Skyline, which if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know my opinions of this film.  Although I’ve had time to reflect on it a little more now.  As I said in the previous post I think that there was too little attention focussed on the live action sequences and too much was relied on the special effects.  The actors are all generally pretty good but they are let down by the script and what felt like an inexperienced director.  The special effects were beautiful though.

The next one that I want to mention is Monsters.  For a film which had such a small budget (Wiki says it was about $500,000) Whereas that is apparently what was spent on the live action sequences of Skyline and apparently and another $10-20 million on the special effects, again according to Wikipedia.  But for that half a million dollars a stunning film was made.  It dealt with politics relationships as well as the aliens themselves.  There is a good sense of threat at the right times in the film and it makes that part of Central America look absolutely stunning.  The Director Gareth Edwards really deserves plenty of credit for this film.

Battle: Los Angeles was a film that I actually quite like despite its negative reviews.  Yes it is full of the typical Hollywood clichés, The retiring sergeant, the inexperienced lieutenant, the platoon of marines that have a gripe with the sergeant.  A little hint of romance and so on.  Arron Eckhart puts in an excellent performance, as always, which I think helps the film hugely.  If someone else was playing the role then I’m not so sure that it would have done so well.  One big thing that I liked about this film was that the invading aliens had a form of intelligence about them.  They took cover when they needed too, they had what we would think of as officers, but they also wiped out humanities armed forces within a heart beat (okay yes I’ve done that too) but I think a lot of people are getting a little tired of an alien force that can just wipe out earths armed forces without any real opposition.  I think a lot of people would like to see a story where there is a reasonably fair fight.  Eckhart has said that he would be interested in a follow-up film to this one, so would I because I think there is a lot here that this film could build on.

No Alien Invasion post would be complete without mentioning Independence Day.  I struggle to watch this film now, and all I can think about is that I’ve seen it so many times that its’ too ingrained into my memory and its maybe not got enough to capture my imagination any more.  I can still watch Predator, after a few thousand times, and still find it truly engaging whereas with Independence Day I can’t.

I write alien invasion stories so all these films are food for thought for me but I’ve found that I strip them to pieces too much to really enjoy them.  I think about how I would tweak characters or the aliens themselves and the plot and so forth.  I can picture how a London version of Battle LA would work, maybe that’s because I’ve been writing an alien invasion book for the last seven or so years.

Bad or good these films always spark an idea for me, do I use force shields? what do the aliens look like? what are they after?  Why are they after it?

Independence Day is the film that has influenced, well inspired, me the most when it comes to this part of the genre, but I cannot think of an invasion film which we, as viewers, deserve. Of all the great films that I have seen I cannot think of one which is truly epic by todays standards.  The original War Of The Worlds film was very good, but the Cruise/Spielberg re-make, well enough said, but I think that in this day and age we need another film with the epic-ness of Independence Day but for todays audience.  Even though I struggle to watch Independence Day it is still a bloody good film, but I think that movie goers today expect more from their movies.  I want to see a movie which has the epic factor that Independence Day had but also the depth and intelligence of a film like District 9.