Battle Los Angeles
Marine staff sergeant Michael Nantz is a hard-as-nails fighter who's good at what he does. But after his last tour in the Middle East, he's also a man carrying around some pretty hefty emotional scars. And so he decides that after he gets this last batch of recruits up to speed, he and the service will part ways.
But, of course, this is a sci-fi war flick, so you know the sergeant's plans are about to change.
What appears to be a cluster of meteors hurtling toward Earth turns out to be nothing less than a perfectly orchestrated alien invasion. They come crashing down into the ocean along the Western coast of the U.S. and reportedly at various other locales around the world.
Nantz isn't concerned with the rest of the world. He's focused on protecting his own home of Los Angeles. As the alien storm troopers swarm, San Francisco and San Diego quickly fold like a couple of cheap suits. And L.A. isn't doing all that well either. The invasion is so quick and ruthless that the higher-ups determine the only course of action is a massive retaliatory bombing raid—on our own soil.
And as the plan calls for literally obliterating Santa Monica, that's where Nantz comes in. He and his platoon have three hours to get to a coastal police station and rescue as many holed-up survivors as possible. It's something of a suicide mission. But somebody's got to man up and do the right thing.
The film stresses the value of human life by way of Nantz's mission of mercy. All members of the armed forces comport themselves with bravery and valor. But it's Nantz and his platoon who repeatedly put their lives on the line to protect the innocent. And it's Nantz in particular who is exemplary in this area. Several times he's willing to strike out on his own to either draw enemy fire away or search out a means to destroy the deadly aliens.
Through dialogue and a few brief scenes, we're also reminded of the power and great value of marriage and parenthood. A civilian father, for example, takes his young son to personally thank Nantz for his bravery. And later the man steps into what he knows to be a deadly situation to protect his son and others.
A Marine's devotional highlights the phrase "Through Christ comes freedom."
Some of the platoon members joke about a comrade's virginity. A Marine cracks a sexual joke after a female soldier is splashed with a dying alien's bodily fluids. One of the rescued civilians shows cleavage.
From the opening attack—that showcases fireball-blasted ships and screaming innocents being blown up on a beach—to the final blood-smeared combat, Battle Los Angeles is one intense firefight after another. We see elevated views of a devastated L.A. mangled and burning from the alien assault. But most of the action is much more visceral and up close, and includes human fighters being hurtled in all directions and fried by laser blasts.
A Marine is shot through his helmet, and we see the burning and bleeding results. Dead bodies litter the streets. A man's skin is crisped and cracked by fire. A helicopter full of the wounded is blown to smithereens—sending the dead and large chunks of shrapnel flying in all directions.
Perhaps the goriest scene takes place when Nantz determines to find a way to kill the seemingly indestructible enemy. He finds a wounded alien and, with the aid of a civilian veterinarian, begins to cut and stab into the creature, exposing its internal organs and searching for a weak point. After several gooey and spurting attempts, they finally hack into the creature's core and it gurgles its last.
Other conflict includes high-powered weapon blasts that crater and obliterate scenery, city vehicles and enemy drones like so much crepe paper. Armored vehicles smash through groups of aliens, crushing them beneath their wheels. A dying Marine detonates a bag full of C4, igniting a bus's fuel tank and tearing the vehicle (and surrounding enemies) to pieces. Several soldiers bury the barrels of their weapons inside a large enemy before unloading clips of ammo.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. About 35 s-words. Twenty or so uses of "h‑‑‑." Over a dozen each of "d‑‑n" and "a‑‑." A handful each of "b‑‑ch" and "b‑‑tard." God's and Jesus' names together are misused well over 20 times. (God's is combined with "d‑‑n" on at least a dozen occasions.)
Drug and Alcohol Content
Partyers down bottles of beer and harder alcohol, too. One Marine gets so drunk he vomits. Another slips a bottle of prescription drugs into his bag.
Other Negative Elements
I generally like to sit quietly and listen in on an audience's reaction both during and after a movie. This time I heard more than usual. Moving toward the exits, folks were excitedly burbling such things as, "It was so intense!" "I couldn't help ducking," and, "I'm just exhausted!" There were references to Independence Day, Cloverfield and Skyline.
Time reviewer Richard Corliss also references some of those movies, but without any of the excitement I heard at the theater. "[Director Jonathan Liebesman aims] for the high-concept brainlessness of Roland Emmerich, who merrily imperiled the planet in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, and the large-scale Lego-rrhea of Michael Bay's Transformers movies." Then he adds, "Screenwriter Chris Bertolini matches Liebesman idiocy for idiocy."
Combine his comments with my theater-mates', and you end up with the specter of a very violent PG-13 war flick that sometimes evokes memories—if not the artistic or historical capabilities—of Saving Private Ryan's brutally bloody battles.
There is, without question, enough self-sacrificial heroism and valor under fire here to fill at least three John Wayne classics. And the never-leave-a-man-behind oorah rings out loud and clear. But as whiz-bang stimulating and salute the flag stirring as the movie may sometimes be, I'm forcibly compelled to quickly return to its abundance of flesh-searing violence, and incessant and battering foul language. (Not to mention the dizzying shaky-cam delivery system.)
Enduring those nasty bits, with your popcorn and soft drink in hand, may not level L.A. or be as deadly as an alien laser blast. But it's still gonna leave a mark.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Aaron Eckhart as Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz; Ramon Rodriguez as Lt. William Martinez; Michelle Rodriguez as Technical Sgt. Elena Santos; Gino Anthony Pesi as Cpl. Nick Stavrou; Cory Hardrict as Cpl. Jason Lockett
March 11, 2011
June 14, 2011