Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, cure Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena
Score: Brian Tyler
When Lucian of Samosata wrote his science fiction tale True History back in the 2nd century, alien life forms, interplanetary war fare and the colonization of planets entered the world of storytelling. Some 1,800 years later, there are enough stories for us to be ready for the real deal, and if necessary to duck or fight – in case the beasts from outer space intend to devour us whole.
The question is if Battle: Los Angeles delivers a really new link in the chain Lucian started. The story begins with Marine Staff sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) being dismissed from the army after an unsuccessful mission in the Middle East. But before he’s even off the base, he’s called back in when strange objects in the sky start heading towards Earth. What seemed like a meteor shower quickly turns into a full-on global attack from the unidentified visitors.
Working with a new band of jar-heads who don’t trust him, Nantz has to prove what it means to be a marine, not just to them, but also himself. In doing so, Battle: Los Angeles becomes less about the invasion and more about one man’s last shot at redemption with the message being very clear: Marines don’t quit.
On the night of February 24th, 1942, Los Angeles was thought to be under enemy attack. With a total blackout ordered and air raid sirens raised, residents were alarmed to see searchlights clawing at the night sky to identify the invaders.
The United States had only just entered World War 2 after the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese Imperial Navy so there were fears of an immanent attack.
Reports following that night were very sketchy on the exact details which lead to the hour-long anti-aircraft artillery bombardment over the city of Los Angeles but conspiracy theorists have attributed it to UFO’s while the Navy issued a statement claiming it was a false alarm due to “war nerves”. As the city tried to protect itself against the mystery target it was said that “the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano.”
An article by Devdutt Pattanaik for the Indian Economic Times highlights the root of this need for humans to protect what’s theirs:
“Any shift in context, any change in territory, frightens us, annoys us and we respond like dogs, growling and barking and biting. In other words, we are afraid. Through territory we try to overcome this fear. Yet territory ends up becoming the source of our greatest fears. It becomes like a dog’s bone. We cling to it tenaciously and fight over it tooth and nail.”
In 1983, the Office of Air Force History released an official report concluding that weather balloons were the cause for the initial alarm that night.
There are some great battle sequences which reminded me of everything from The Longest Day (1962) right up through to recent war documentaries Restrepo (2010) and This Is War (2010). Scenes with the ships and aliens don’t feel as impressive as they did with Independence Day (1996) or War of the Worlds (2005) but that’s not to say they don’t have an impact; they definitely do but Battle: Los Angeles is first and foremost a war movie with soldiers talking about distances in terms of “clicks”, targets as “assets” and aliens as “hostiles” which makes the dialogue and characters very difficult to relate to.
Battle: Los Angeles is characterised by its documentary style camerawork which has been more or less successfully replicated in both alien and supernatural stories. It seems the filmmakers have tried to take a different approach to a basic plot that by nature is prone to a lack of surprises. While the story might have been inspired by events such as the “Great Los Angeles Air Raid” in 1942, it misses quite a few opportunities and is instead reduced to something which resembles a propaganda video.
But a unique story that satisfies our need for movies like this in an unpredictable way still seems to be enough to wish for, unfortunately.
Patrick and Jonahh are the Editors in Chief at Static Mass.
Patrick is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.