I finally got around to seeing Battle: Los Angeles today. I don’t see too many movies in the theater anymore, largely because it’s gotten so expensive, but also because it requires a fair amount of planning and effort to actually go to the theater, rather than streaming something on Netflix or grabbing a DVD from the Redbox kiosk after checking out at the grocery store. So, I used a coupon code to get a free rental from Redbox, and I chose Battle: Los Angeles. I’d heard a few good things about it online when it came out, and the premise seemed promising enough: follow a squad of Marines in Los Angeles during an alien invasion.
My first thoughts were summed up fairly well in a post I made on Facebook shortly after finishing the movie: “Wow. That was pretty good. Better than I’d expected, in fact. The shaky-cam was a little annoying at times, but I actually didn’t even notice it throughout most of the film.”
The special effects were pretty good. You actually didn’t even see the aliens or the ships very much, until the last 30 minutes of the movie. The first 3/4 of the movie was just focused on the characters and the chaos of the situation they were in, and the dust and smoke from demolished buildings around them in Santa Monica obscured anything from really being visible. The last 1/4 of the movie, though, had much wider shots and clearer visuals. It was actually really clever; the movie started with tight shots on the characters and slowly pulled out to wider shots as the story progressed and both the characters and we, the audience, learned more about what was really going on, so by the end of the film, it had a more “epic” feel to it, and the camera work opened up accordingly.
One thing that I truly appreciated, though, were the “little touches” that made the characters actually seem like they could really be Marines: early in the film, the main character is out for a run, and the camera is tight on his face as he’s pushing himself during the run… only to pull out as he gets passed up by the younger Marines, all saying “Good morning, Staff Sergeant” as they pass him by. Then there’s the guy wearing “BCGs”… an, er, affectionate nickname those of us in the Air Force had for standard-issue glasses from basic training (For those wondering, that stands for “Birth Control Glasses,” because they’re so fugly nobody wearing them is likely to get laid). One moment that I sympathized with was when one of the Marines, while packing his gear before the squad leaves to go into combat, gets pissed off when somebody snags a specific flavor of MRE that he wanted… I’ve seen it happen a few times when I was in the Air Force. It’s the authentic little details like these that helped “sell” the movie for me.
Long story short, I enjoyed the movie. It was a nice departure from the standard approach we normally see in an alien invasion film, with the focus on the tactical level, with a small group of Marines struggling to survive and fight off the invaders, rather than watching the bigwigs direct operations on a strategic level in relative safety (I’m looking at you, Independence Day). The ending of the film, with the immediate battle having been won, but the war raging on, was also another nice departure from the standard, hokey, frequently all-too-pat Hollywood ending (again, I’m looking at you, ID4… and what’s up with that acronym, anyway?).