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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Marine helicopters respond to a first strike by aliens in Battle: Los Angeles.

— Battle: Los Angeles is one of those movies that I admittedly don’t get, a kind of cross between what I imagine the first person shooter video game experience to be and an episode of the HBO series Generation Kill. I suppose if one was the sort who got offended by the movies, one might be offended by the way the film valorizes death in combat, but the truth is I wasn’t offended, just mildly bored by the whole thing.

I was bored because I’d seen the movie before, sometimes with John Wayne in the role that’s played by Aaron Eckhart here. Battle: Los Angeles, for all its computer-generated explosions and high-tech weaponry, is a very old-fashioned war movie about a small band of U.S. Marines (and an Air Force technical sergeant,played by Michelle Rodriguez) on a mission. It’s very straightforward, with no subtle political messages and no implied critique of the efficacy of war as a problem-solving tactic. And even though the Marines and the civilians they’re sent to save are an ethnically diverse bunch, I get the feeling the filmmakers castit that way not out of some politically correct impulse but so we could actually differentiate between the soldiers in full battle gear. This is simple martial fantasy, about shooting beings that are not us.

And our war is just because our planet has been invaded by alien creatures who, scientists suspect, mean to siphon off all our water after they exterminate us. They do not come in peace, and only a naive child would suggest that maybe we could simply ask them what they want and maybe make friends with them. (So naturally there’s a point in the movie when a naive child is introduced.Fortunately he shapes up pretty quickly into a good little Marine.)

Philip Martin is blogging daily with reviews of movies, TV, music and more at Blood, Dirt & Angels.

Some wars are necessary, you bunch of hippies, and no war is more justified than when an advanced civilization presumably from light years away decides to go all Noah Cross on Planet Earth. So “Retreat, hell!” (Come to think of it, Battle: Los Angeles seems to borrow not only the catchphrase, but a plot point from Retreat, Hell!, the 1952 Joseph H. Lewis Korean war drama with one of my favorite poster taglines of all time: “... Then a bunch of husky guys with star-spangled spunk took over!”)

I can see why you might think that I didn’t like Battle: Los Angeles. But the truth is a little more complicated. I think that I might actually like Battle: Los Angeles if I were to watch it a couple of times, because I suspect that what I perceived as cliches were actually embedded allusions to old war movies. (I’m writing this review immediately after driving to the office from the screening. I haven’t quite digested the movie yet. But deadlines are what they are, and I’ve miles to go before I sleep.)

On the other hand, I’m not really inclined to view Battle: Los Angeles a second time, unless someone comes up with a drinking game to go along with the film. (Every time Eckhart’s baby blues lock meaningfully with another character’s, we have to shoot a jigger of tequila.) Still, I really don’t hate it, and I can even see how after District 9, Independence Day, Restrepo and2012 it was an inevitable movie. Someone was going to make this (or something exactly like it), and so I’m a little relieved that the people who did make it classed it up with some decent actors. I’m relieved that they got through it in a little less than two hours.

But mostly I’m relieved that, when the aliens come to get us in August, regular grade gasoline will be selling for $2.969 a gallon in Los Angeles.

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 03/11/2011

Print Headline: ‘Aliens? Hell !’


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Archived Comments

  • NickieD
    March 12, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.

    I usually try to avoid any entanglements with someone as arrogant as Mr Martin. Usually his reviews are self-important and snooty, full of demands for moral teachings and righteousness, but this one, of a SF film is over the top and beyond my ability to ignore.
    Why they even allow someone as stuck on himself is Poor Phillip seems to be is a never ending source of confusion to me. He has even allowed his 12 year old daughter to write reviews... proving, I suspect, that he doesn't even take his job serously enough to apply what little adult judgement he has, to it.
    I'd like to remind Poor Phillip that this is a SciFi film... that's SciFi as in FICTIONAL, and to demand that he should not be "offended" because some of the fictional characters are willing to die in a fictional war against fictional aliens who are invading Earth in a fictional story is, well, I guess it makes him positively overconfident in his ability to even view a fictional movie much less write a decent critique.
    "It's very straightforward," he says, "with no subtle political messages and no implied critique of the efficacy of war as a problem-solving tactic." This about an invasion from outer space by aliens bent of wiping out humanity. Just what kind of moral platitude about war would one expect to be imbedded in a fictional movie about aliens invading Earth for purposes contrary to humanity's benefit? Does Poor Phillip think it would have been a better movie if humanity just gave up because "war is bad"?
    He also says he was bored... would that be because he could not get past his personal inability to comprehend or realize that it was a fictional SciFi movie?
    When this paper uses such a lack-luster critic such as Poor Phillip, it reflects on the paper. He rarely has anything appropriate to say about movies, which are, in reality, for entertainment and enjoyment rather than morality plays designed to teach some lesson better left on a church doorstep.

  • MovieCritic
    March 12, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.

    Your review on this movie is completely bias and misplaced, are you the kind of critic that visited "Transformers" for its plot? Obviously a movie that you see a preview for that focuses primarily on it's explosions and interesting high tech creations IS ALL YOU SHOULD GO TO THAT MOVIE FOR. Next time you write a review for a new release try open your mind and see the film the way the director meant it to be seen, not in the fashion that you feed off, that is bad criticism.

    Also on your noted under toe of John Wayne classics, there are a reason they are classics. Do you also hate on greats such as "Brother Where Art Thou" because it stole the construction of the classic novel, "The Odyssey"?

    I tend to find myself respecting the creation of movies and looking for what the director meant for you to see, but enjoy your fine tuned taste and terrible understanding of movie construction, can't wait to hear your review on "Sucker Punch"...