1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Watch the 'Battle: Los Angeles' trailer

By
updated 3/10/2011 1:27:34 PM ET 2011-03-10T18:27:34
REVIEW

Disaster films will really get interesting when they start running out of iconic skylines to destroy. How about "Battle: Wichita" or "Deep Impact: Albany"?

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

"Battle: Los Angeles" doesn't rely as much as its genre brethren on the gleeful horror of seeing familiar landmarks burn. (We don't even get a shot of the "Hollywood" sign in flames.) Instead, this West Coast version of alien invasion distinguishes itself as an urban warfare film and a patriotic advert for the Marines.

Like so many of these films, "Battle: Los Angeles" opens on urgent news reports announcing that "the world is at war." CNN snippets are laced throughout the movie, and it's easy to see their function in relaying exposition. But it's rather terrifying to think that even extra-terrestrials can't stop the 24/7 stream of cable news.

Story: Lesson one: The aliens never, ever come in peace

The date is Aug. 12, 2011. Alien ships, first appearing like a cluster of meteors, "breach" the Earth and quickly make their violent intentions clear, shooting gun-like weapons and discharging flying mechanical droids. One of the 12 ships lands just off the shore of L.A.'s laid-back Santa Monica.

The film flashes back 24 hours to introduce the handful of Marines whom we will follow into battle. Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is retiring after a particularly rough mission only vaguely referred to. Though it's his last day, the weary veteran is dispatched to assist a platoon of young Marines (Ne-Yo, Cory Hardrict among them) expecting to head to Afghanistan.

We get brief visions of their soon-to-change lives, all in various stages of heterosexual development: one is a virgin, another engaged, another with a pregnant wife.

Video: Eckhart went to boot camp for ‘Battle’ (on this page)

It's the first hint that director Jonathan Liebesman ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning") and screenwriter Chris Bertolini are most interested in a conventional war film. All the hallmarks are here, with handheld cameras and rousing, "ooh-rah" solidarity — just with the notable exception of enemy species.

Once the aliens have landed, the unit is sent into Santa Monica with the seemingly inconsequential task of rescuing a handful of civilians (Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena) trapped at a police station. They're told to "kill anything that's not human," which can be a challenging distinction even on Santa Monica's best days.

Cosmic Log: Why we love to fear E.T.

Masked in a haze or jumping from rooftops, the aliens aren't seen straight on for some time. When we eventually do get a good look at them, they aren't anything special. Above all else, the audience demands unique extra-terrestrials in such a movie: a radical set of fangs, at least, or some new, ravishing variation of antennae.

As the marines make their way through the wreckage and various skirmishes with the aliens, great care is taken to portray military hierarchy. In command is Lieutenant William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), whom Nantz guides as a subordinate advisor.

Video: Inside 1942's original 'Battle of Los Angeles' (on this page)

There's great trepidation among the platoon for Nantz, who's rumored to have led several of his men into death. But Nantz keeps the group focused and grounded, much as the talented Eckhart ("The Dark Knight," "Thank You For Smoking") does for the film.

With a square jaw and reluctant eyes, Eckhart fits the part well, and does a great deal to keep "Battle: Los Angeles" engaging. He and Liebesman manage to pull off the ultra-seriousness for much of the film, before a laughable speech of teary-eyed inspiration finally does them in.

In times of great terrorist concerns, there's obvious comfort in depicting a war with such a clear-cut enemy: If we can't straighten out Afghanistan, at least we can kick some alien behind.

The spectacle of disaster is oddly lacking throughout. At one point, our jaws are supposed to drop for an obliterated freeway onramp. There's also little sense of Los Angeles: No terrified actors running from set, no jokes that a sophisticated subway system would have really come in handy with aliens buzzing overhead.

Instead, the movie stays surprisingly close to the ground, bogged down in block-by-block combat. Los Angeles traffic triumphs again. (In reality, 90 percent of the film was shot in low-tax Louisiana.)

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: March movies

loading photos...
  1. 'The Adjustment Bureau'

    Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly

    Director: George J. Nolfi

    Scheduled release date: March 4

    On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris meets beautiful ballet dancer Elise Sellas. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself -- the men of "The Adjustment Bureau" -- who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. (Universal Studios) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'Rango'

    Stars: Johnny Depp, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina

    Director: Gore Verbinski

    Scheduled release date: March 4

    'Rango' (voiced by Depp) is a sheltered chameleon facing a major identity crisis. When he accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt -- a lawless outpost populated by the desert's most wily and whimsical creatures -- the less-than-courageous lizard suddenly finds himself the town's last hope. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Take Me Home Tonight'

    Stars: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Seth Gabel

    Director: Michael Dowse

    Scheduled release date: March 4

    "Take Me Home Tonight" is a retro comedy set in 1988. Aimless college graduate (Grace) pursues his dream girl at a wild Labor Day weekend party. He, his twin sister and their best friend struggle with their burgeoning adulthood over the course of the night. Grace knows retro -- he starred as Eric Forman in "That 70s Show." (Relativity Media) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'Beastly'

    Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Alex Pettyfer, Neil Patrick Harris, Peter Krause

    Director: Daniel Barnz

    Scheduled release date: March 4

    You know the source material for "Beastly" -- "Beauty and the Beast." Here high school bully Kyle (Pettyfer) is transformed into a monster when he disses a classmate who's secretly a witch. Can love redeem him? (Takashi Seida / CBS Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Battle: Los Angeles'

    Stars: Michelle Rodriguez, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Peña, Bridget Moynahan, Ne-Yo, Ramón Rodríguez

    Director: Jonathan Liebesman

    Scheduled release date: March 11

    "Battle: Los Angeles" is yet another alien invasion movie, with La La Land as the last stand as the creatures attack Earth. The focus is on a platoon of Marines and Airmen, with Eckhart leading the Marines. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Jane Eyre'

    Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench

    Director: Cary Fukunaga

    Scheduled release date: March 11

    Ah, "Jane Eyre." You know the Charlotte Bronte story -- poor Jane, Mr. Rochester, the madwoman in the attic. This adaptation is supposed to stick closely to the book, although director Fukunaga says he plans to emphasize the spooky, darker sides of the tale. (Focus Features) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Mars Needs Moms'

    Stars: Brian Eastman, Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Harnois, Dan Fogler

    Director: Simon Wells

    Scheduled release date: March 11

    In the 3-D animated flick "Mars Needs Moms, " 9-year-old Milo (voice of Seth Green) finds out just how much he needs his mom (Joan Cusack) when she's nabbed by Martians who want the mothers of Earth to nurture their own children. (Walt Disney Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Red Riding Hood'

    Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Quentin Bates, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie

    Director: Catherine Hardwicke

    Scheduled release date: March 11

    'Red Riding Hood' is a Gothic imagining of the classic fairy tale in which a young woman is confronted by a werewolf, this time with a teenage love triangle at its center. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 'Kill the Irishman'

    Stars: Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, Steven R. Schirripa, Vincent D'Onofrio

    Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

    Scheduled release date: March 11

    In "Kill the Irishman," Ray Stevenson plays Danny Greene, the Irish mob boss fighting his way to the top of Cleveland's criminal underworld in the 1970s. (Anchor Bay Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'Limitless'

    Stars: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Tomas Arana

    Director: Neil Burger

    Scheduled release date: March 18

    In "Limitless," Bradley Cooper plays an unsuccessful writer whose life is transformed by a top-secret "smart drug" that allows him to use 100 percent of his brain and become a perfect version of himself. Too bad side effects include homicidal blackouts. (Relativity Media) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 'Paul'

    Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader

    Director: Greg Mottola

    Scheduled release date: March 18

    Two sci-fi geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Spaced") make a pilgrimage to America's UFO heartland. Naturally, they meet an alien named Paul who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. (Universal Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'The Lincoln Lawyer'

    Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas

    Director: Brad Furman

    Scheduled release date: March 18

    "The Lincoln Lawyer" is Mickey Haller (McConaughey) an L.A. criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his Lincoln sedan. But dealing with his newest client (Phillippe) may not be as easy as previous cases. (Lionsgate) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'Win Win'

    Stars: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young

    Director: Thomas McCarthy

    Scheduled release date: March 18

    Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete who's estranged from his family. Just as the boy starts to have some real success, the kid's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything. (Fox Searchlight Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Sucker Punch'

    Stars: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn br>
    Director: Zack Snyder

    Scheduled release date: March 25

    A young girl, confined to a mental institution by her stepfather who plans to have her lobotomized in five days time, creates an imaginary world to plan her escape. The director has called it "'Alice in Wonderland' with machine guns." (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules'

    Stars: Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris

    Director: David Bowers

    Scheduled release date: March 25

    The first "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" movie was a hit, so here comes round two, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules." Rodrick is the older brother of seventh-grader Greg, and both resist their parents attempt to force them to bond. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'Shelter'

    Stars: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

    Director: Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein

    Scheduled release date: March 25

    In "Shelter," Moore plays female forensic psychiatrist who discovers that all of one of her patient's multiple personalities are murder victims. Is she now in danger? (Icon Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'The Imperialists Are Still Alive!'

    Stars: Élodie Bouchez, José María de Tavira and Karim Saleh

    Director: Zeina Durra

    Scheduled release date: Mar 25

    In "The Imperialists Are Still Alive," Bouchez stars as a French Manhattanite who must juggle the sudden abduction of her childhood sweetheart as well as a blooming love affair. (Hi, Jack Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss: The aliens are here

Will you see "Battle: LA"? If you saw it, what did you think?

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Sesame Street

    Jon Hamm gets emotional on 'Sesame Street'

    4/15/2014 3:57:55 PM +00:00 2014-04-15T15:57:55
  1. Istock

    Best cheap cities for raising a family

    4/15/2014 10:07:46 PM +00:00 2014-04-15T22:07:46
  1. ‘Boston is ready to run again’: City revisits tragedy, looks ahead

    TODAY’s Natalie Morales, who will run in the marathon on Monday, has been in Boston speaking with survivors, victims’ families and officials.

    4/15/2014 3:08:07 PM +00:00 2014-04-15T15:08:07
  2. video Survivor: April 15 is ‘not an easy day’
  3. Uta Pippig’s advice for Boston: Run with joy
  4. Victims remembered on anniversary
  5. Michael Dwyer / AP