Battle Los Angeles

As it turns out, this wasn’t so much another Skyline as another Independence Day — so in other words, not nearly as bad as it could have been.

As it turns out, this wasn’t so much another Skyline as another Independence Day — so in other words, not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight) is U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz, who’s put in his twenty years and wants to retire to do something he hasn’t figured out yet. Of course you know something has to go wrong with this plan, but you don’t necessarily expect large-scale alien invasion of earth wrong. That’s what you get here, though, and the Staff Sergeant isn’t too happy. He’s never just Sergeant, or even Sarge — he’s always Staff Sergeant, and sometimes I wondered if it was wise to give people such long titles when you might have to yell out a warning to them in a big hurry.

Anyway, aliens invade. They send something like twenty groups of ships to crash-land into our oceans near heavily populated coastlines. I’m glad I live by the Great Lakes, not the oceans. Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, is on full alert, and Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez, Delgado, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) and his squadron are being mobilized to rescue civilians. Martinez is newly graduated from officer’s training school, and is also short one Staff Sergeant, so he gets Nantz, who doesn’t seem to think much of this inexperienced kid but never lets it show on his face. Much.

Rescuing civilians sounds like a relatively easy job, but of course you know that has to go wrong, too. Sent to a West Los Angeles police station, the Marines find five cowering civilians — Michele (Bridget Moynahan, who was Dr. Calvin in I, Robot), Joe Rincon (Michael Peña, who was Nick Memphis, the Disgraced FBI Agent from Shooter), Michele’s two nieces and Joe’s son, Hector. The nieces are (I think) Kirsten and Amy, or Joey King of Quarantine and Jadin Gould of the TV show Chuck, respectively. They’re never called by name. Actually, neither is Michele, now that I think about it. It’s one of those movies where they skip over a lot of the introduction stuff.

To let you know how bad things truly are, the team finds the remnants of another team. These remnants have joined forces with an Air Force Tech Sergeant, Elena Santos (played by Michelle Rodriguez, aka Luz of Machete, and no relation to the previous Rodriguez) who’s a remarkably good shot for a technician, but that makes sense since apparently she did have to survive by herself for a while. And the place is overrun. There are aliens in armored battlesuits, plus little drone-things, plus things that look sort of like Imperial Walkers from the Star Wars saga, only more shiny.

Our heroes have to find their way out of all this mess and get to the extraction point before the whole planet gets nuked from orbit, since that’s the only way to be sure. Wait, I mean before the Air Force drops lots of bombs all over the California coast, which is still very bad, but not quite as bad as the nuked from orbit scenario.

And really, Independence Day is still the best comparison I can think of here. The effects are better and there’s no one quite as fun as Jeff Goldblum around, but otherwise the family resemblance is very marked. Which means it’s a fun, solid sort of action flick, but three out of five is the best I can do. The acting is good — most people manage to rise above the script, which is good but predictable — but the inspiring speeches sort of made me want to roll my eyes sometimes.

On the one hand, it avoided the pitfalls of Skyline by not having characters that make you want to root for the invaders; but on the other, the pacing was all messed up. The first hour and half is fine, but then the last half hour just races away, leaving the viewers to catch up whenever they can. And it turns out that “painting” a target with a laser, like in The Losers, isn’t nearly as exciting as I’d hoped. Apparently all you do is literally shine a sort of industrial-laser looking thing at whatever you want the heavily-armed jets to destroy, which was sort of a letdown. However, it looks like I was wise to avoid Red Riding Hood, so I’ll count it as a win.