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Title:Battle: Los Angeles
Release Dates:2011
Running Time:1hr 56min
Formats: In theaters now
Rated:PG-13
Starring:Aaron Eckhart, Ramon Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan
Directed By:Jonathan Liebsman
Produced By:Jeffery Charnov, Ori Marmur, Neal Moritz
Written By:Christopher Bertolini
Reviewed By:Burke G Sheppard

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. Battle: Los Angeles isn’t really as different from The Sands of Iwo Jima as all of that. Granted, director Jonathan Liebsman has money, technology, and special effects that were unimaginable in John Wayne’s day. But at the end of the day, both are war movies about tough Marine sergeants leading their men into battle, and the Marines winning through in the end. It’s just that one move is set on the island of Iwo Jima, with the Marines fighting the Imperial Japanese army, and the other is set in Los Angeles with the Marines facing off with extraterrestrial invaders.

Battle: Los Angeles is the biggest, loudest, most spectacular war movie anyone has seen in a while. It’s not unusual for science fiction movies to cross genre lines in this way, certainly Aliens and Independence Day did, but Battle: Los Angeles does so to a remarkable degree. There’s certainly enough military hardware and combat scenes to get this movie reviewed here on Strategypage. Besides, it tells us a thing or two about exactly what exactly  has changed since John Wayne’s time.

The movie opens with Staff Sergeant Nantz ( Aaron Eckhart) about to retire from the Marine Corps.  But meteor showers headed towards numerous coastal cities  force an evacuation of part of LA, and Nantz is assigned on short notice as a platoon sergeant to a new Second Lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez). It quickly becomes clear that these “meteors” are actually an alien invasion force, and  Eckhart and Martinez must lead their Marines to evacuate civilians from a police station in an area about to be hammered by an air strike. Before you can say “Bugs, Mr Rico, zillions of ‘em!”, the Marines, the terrified civilians, and an Air Force Technical Sergeant played by Michelle Rodriguez (Because there are no female infantry in the Marines, and there has to be a gun toting female in here somewhere) are surrounded and fighting for their lives.

It’s probably not a coincidence that a good deal of this movie takes place in and around a police station, or that it takes place just as Staff Sergeant Nantz is to retire. War movies, especially about the present day US military, haven’t been a Hollywood staple for quite some time. Cop movies have. One of the hoariest cliches is cop movies is that the hero (Or, in the case of a buddy cop movie, one of the heros), is about to retire. The evacuation point for these people could have been a high school gym, a mall, a parking deck, a stadium, or all sorts of things. . To Hollywood, the military is mostly terra incognita. But they know police stations (Or fancy they do), they’ve been setting stories in police stations forever, so...it’s a police station. On the other hand, it wouldn’t occur to them that  Marines surrounded in a police station might break into the arms room, which might contain 5.56mm or something else useful things. And in fact it doesn’t.

Battle: Los Angeles has a good cast. Eckhart and Ramon Rodriguez play off each other well, and Eckhart in particular does good authority figure. Bridget Moynahan, as one of the civilians, hasn’t got a whole lot to do but looks damn fine doing it. Michelle Rodriguez is basically playing the same Latina tough chick she’s been typecast into since Girlfight, but she’s got it down to a fine art by this time, and carries the role effortlessly.

Battle: Los Angeles is good clean fun, dubious science and all. Time was when these alien invaders would have tried to steal our individuality, rather like the old Evil Empire used be planning to do. Or maybe at another time they would have wanted our women. But nowadays Hollywood can’t imagine anything worse then being politically incorrect or ecologically unsound, so now they’re out to steal our water. Because this is the only planet in the whole universe with liquid water, which they can use to fuel their engines, making this one of the dumbest reasons for an alien invasion, ever.

But it allows Hollywood to do something that even the war against Osama Bin Laden did not, namely, depict the United States military heroically. John Wayne could have delivered Staff Sergeant Nantz’s speech about how Marines don’t quit. But Hollywood, in John Wayne’s time, was still unabashedly American, and making American movies. Today, Hollywood executives  think of themselves as globalistas, and make movies for a global audience, many of whom are at best ambivalent about America (And the Hollywood types are themselves often bitterly hostile).  So real world adversaries, even Al Qaeda, are verboten. In the event that aliens ever really invade, the Marines will no doubt fight as they always have. But don’t  expect to see Hollywood depict it  favorably in the movies, though they make mouth noises about supporting the troops.

 



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