Susan Granger’s review of “Battle: Los Angeles” (Columbia Pictures/Sony)
“From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…” and on to Southern California, where gung-ho U.S. Marines gamely go into combat against monstrous alien forces – and I don’t mean those ‘goddesses’ of self-proclaimed warlock Charlie Sheen.
It seems that Los Angeles, along with other coastal cities around the world, has been bombarded by ‘meteors’ from outer space, spawning towering metallic warriors who robotically march out of the surf, prompting Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton to rush to Santa Monica, where Malibu beachfront property is diminishing in value in terrifying increments. Although squinty, clenched-jawed Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has announced his intention to retire after losing too many buddies in the Middle East, he’s soon leading a platoon making its way from the airport to a police station at 10th Street on a civilian rescue mission. Time is ticking because – in just three hours – the big bomb blasts, obliterating everything. So amid the skirmishes, there are the usual stock characters, including Ramon Rodriguez as the insecure, all-too-freshly minted officer with a pregnant wife, Michael Pena as the single father, Noel Fisher as the rookie virgin, R&B singer Ne-Yo as the bridegroom, Michelle Rodriguez as the feisty Air Force communications officer and Bridget Moynahan as the veterinarian, caring for nieces (Joey King, Jadin Gould), who diagnoses the extraterrestrials’ fatal weakness.
The sci-fi “War of the Worlds”-type script by Chris Bertolini (“The General’s Daughter”) is so heavily laden with clichés that it could be classified a weapon of mass destruction in that it often evokes unintentional laughter, while director Jonathan Liebesman (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”) attempts to evoke chaotic confusion by changing the camera perspective, shaking it constantly, as the mechanized marauders wreak havoc with CGI. After delivering a sensitively nuanced performance opposite Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole,” little is required of Eckhart, except a heartfelt, “Retreat? Hell. We just got here,” and patriotic exhortation, “Marines don’t quit!”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Battle: Los Angeles” is a formulaic 5. It’s by-the-numbers, big-screen video gaming. Hooh-ra!