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Movie Review

Battle: Los Angeles

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language.

Reviewed by: Robert MacLean
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Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Sci-Fi Action
Length:
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
2011
USA Release:
March 11, 2011 (wide—3,300+ theaters)
DVD: June 14, 2011
Copyright, Columbia Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Aliens (extraterrestrials)

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

questions and answers about the origin of life


death

The extraterrestrial aliens value Earth’s water. Learn how amazing water is.

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Featuring: Aaron Eckhart—SSgt. Michael Nantz
Michelle Rodriguez—TSgt. Elena Santos
Lucas Till—Cpl. Scott Grayston
Ramon Rodriguez—2nd Lt. William Martinez
Will Rothhaar—Cpl. Lee Imlay
Cory Hardrict—Cpl. Jason Lockett
Jim Parrack—LCpl. Peter Kerns
Gino Anthony Pesi—Cpl. Nick Stavrou
Ne-Yo—Cpl. Kevin Harris
James Hiroyuki Liao—LCpl. Steven Mottola
Bridget Moynahan—Michele
more »
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Producer: Jeffrey Chernov—producer
Ori Marmur—producer
more »
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Copyrighted, Columbia Pictures

Part of the hope alien movie buffs have is for twists or surprises in plot, characters or the aliens themselves. For the most part, Battleground LA disappoints in all categories. Bottom-line is, wait for it on DVD, nothing new here. As for moral content, at least it doesn’t spiral downhill at a precipitous rate the farther you get into the film. Specifics on that at the bottom. This film is over the PG-13 line for me, though, there should be no F bombs, but there are. There are elements of character shown which are a relief from the onslaught of the opposite from Hollywood, over the last several decades, however, I cannot say it redeems the use of the language used in a PG-13.

Starting with the plot, it is completely predictable, nothing imaginative to note. In fact, this is really a combination of the Borg, “Independence Day” and “Cloverfield,” with a dash of “Skyline” mixed in. The film begins with a fore-flash, then, after a few minutes, goes back a day to start off shortly before the calamity begins to unwind. The havoc is filmed from the point of view of L.A., although the same scenario is unfolding across the world.

Cinematographically, I was very worried due to the hand jerky filming technique used, as in “Cloverfield” which is a sorry attempt to inject something new into filming. That method was introduced at least 10 years ago on TV shows such as “NYPD Blue.” Newness for the sake of newness is not new, it reflects boredom and a need to inject entertainment factor or what I call flash-and-trash. Of course, some like it, so if you enjoy that type of filming, you will have 2 hours of pure joy. I find it ironic that the Steadicam®, which was invented around 1976 and hailed as a major breakthrough for filming without camera shake, has as its rival this spastic motion that obviously appeals to a percentage of the audience. I am a photographer and pay a huge premium to buy camera lenses that include image stabilization, so I am admittedly prejudiced on this subject.

The main plot, that is predictable, is like many before—aliens invade Earth, and we have little time to figure out how to beat them. There was a Japanese B alien movie from 1959 that presented the same plot, figure it out quick or die. All major population centers around the globe are synchronously attacked and being destroyed.

If you believe Scripture, you know the world’s biggest enemy is not aliens nor earthquakes, but man himself. And, if you think just a bit, you realize the British and Spanish annihilated native peoples of the Americas by the 10’s of thousands, if not more. Those invaders must have seemed like aliens to them, with their great ships and weapons.

The aspect that injects a bit of character into this plot is Aaron Eckhart’s strong character, SSgt. Michael Nantz. I delighted in 2 facts here: (1) his strong character is built on real character and strength, and (2) his character is not ridiculed by the screenwriter as being passe or wooden. We are treated to a man who stands up to criticism and continues to shine as a hero, unlike some cheesy type of pseudo-hero that Bruce Willis often plays in films.

Please note I don’t consider this aspect of the film to redeem what I felt was a fail, and that was the language used in a PG-13. I did not count them, but let’s say they are of every type, including at least 1 F bomb. Parading character in the main character of the film stands in stark contrast to the lack of character the producers have in trying to cover the language up with a hero lead. I read, too, often the reviews of young film goers who feel because there’s a bit of good in a film it makes the abusive parts OK somehow. That is like saying the Mafia is OK because they donate to kids’ programs in a city. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7). This is where real character displays itself; a person rejects partial truths, even if it’s inconvenient. Pray about it, and see what God says through his Holy Spirit in you.

SSgt. Nantz is whispered to be the opposite, lacking in character, at the outset, and slowly the reasons why are revealed. He shows through actions that this whispering is wholly untrue. He does not get into a game of defending himself, another mark of character. Sadly, when given the chance to glorify God, as the author of character and the one who can impart it in sinful man, he cites something about Marines not quitting, instead, but you would not expect otherwise. There is also a father and son, and, at one poin,t the father shows incredible character trying to fight when presented with a do-or-die situation and pays the ultimate price for it, leaving his son alone. It is quite a scene where Nantz shows kindness to go along with his character.

The bulk of the plot, then, is the invasion with a group of Marine’s getting into sticky wickets, a few of them being killed in each segment. At each stage of things getting worse, you hold less and less hope they will prevail, and, yet, Nantz continues to up the ante and ultimately this leads to the saving of Earth.

If the why’s of the invasion are important to you, this film is short on them, but they are present. Other films of this type spend much of the film trying to figure out the Aliens’ Achilles heel, and the good SSgt. certainly doesn’t disappoint here.

In the expletive category, the frequency of words is not constant, but they are uttered. I wish producers would not insist on getting a PG-13 by pushing the envelope, but that invasion is long passed, and there is no hero on the horizon, except for individual parents. Some might argue it is “realistic”. Of course it is, but why subject all movie goers to it for your desire to hear it? Paul says we must forego our needs and regard others as more important than ourselves. That, my friend, is character with a capital “C”. Romans 14 explains it well.

This is an action movie first, with plot and character development firmly in 2nd place, so don’t expect great dialogue or plot twists; a mental challenge, this film is not. I’d say wait for the DVD, unless you have a 10 dollar bill burning a hole in your wallet.

There is a certain amount of alien gore here, as a veterinarian and the SSgt. try and figure out how to kill a wounded alien in a make-shift morgue scene. There is one such scene. Since the film is 90% fighting, some Marine’s are killed.

The FX are pretty good, and you’d expect that, since it cost an estimated $100,000,000 to produce it. However, I thought “Independence Day” was much richer in those effects than this movie. On the other hand, it is miles ahead of “Monsters” of 2010 which was made for $500,000 and showed it.

I have relented in recent years on going to R rated movies due to worsening content. It makes the choices harder at the movies, but I believe if we show Hollywood we don’t want that kind of movie, they would produce better content. With the bad language seeping into PG-13 now, I wonder if I’ll be faced with the same choice again, relenting on entertainment because I want to show some character? We will see. I would not recommend this movie for children under 14 as a rule of thumb nor for those averse to foul language.

Marines helped train the cast at Camp Pendleton and were treated to a preview a week before the release of the film. I’d like to insert my thanks to all who serve to keep freedom alive in the world. I work alongside soldiers at the Defense Language Institute and am reminded daily of their choice to protect and defend our country. Special thanks, of course, go to the families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The film apparently was shot mostly in Louisiana, due to cost savings.

Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Heavy to moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor to moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I thought this film was an outstanding thrill-ride. This is what movie-making is about. Non-stop action from the opening credits and a fairly believable story that unfolded well. Aaron Eckhart is awesome! Pros: Unlike so many films today, this flick is unapologetically “pro-military.” Duty, honor, bravery, self-sacrifice, and guts from start to finish. Great recruitment tool for the Marines—HUA! It’s refreshing to see the “chain of command” portrayed as a high standard, instead of something to shirk. Fantastic camera work, good dialogue, and lots of explosions, gunfire, grenades, boom boom boom! No sex or sensuality, no alternative lifestyles, no gore, and only a small amount of blood. Cons: One f-bomb (though aptly placed), several smaller four-letter words, and the Lord’s name was misused a few times. One marine made reference to another’s virginity. Definitely a “guy” film. Probably ok for 14 and up. I would place Battle: Los Angeles on the same shelf as Cloverfield, I Am Legend, and District 9. Hope this helps you decide! Enjoy!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Diana O, age 42 (USA)
Positive—I’d been wanting to see this movie for months upon months. I like Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor in the comic genius “Thank You For Smoking” and his other authority figure type roles as well (e.g. “The Dark Knight,” “Love Happens”). He’s built from the Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne mold. It’s not just the Vince McMahon bullet chin. It’s the poise, the manner in which he carries himself onscreen and likely real life, too. Some actors become character actors because they’re suited to play a certain part really well. The late Charles Bronson or the contemporary Danny Trejo traditionally always played or plays the “tough guy” role, and dweebs like Topher Grace generally always play, well, the token dweeb. Liam Neeson’s a versatile actor, no doubt, but he’s definitely given to playing the mentor part extremely well. In a similar manner, I think Eckhart can pull off a number of roles, but his best bets are always gonna be the strong, central authoritative type roles. So when I learned this was going to be another sci-fi alien invasion movie, I had no fears. Eckhart was to be the main character, and good ol” Michelle Rodriguez (a character actress in her own right) was set to costar. I knew it’d be half-decent.

What I wasn’t expecting was the “sci-fi” tag to stop short at the “alien” part. There is no mumbo jumbo dialogue, no comic book explanation of the aliens, no nerdy, hapless scientist that gets lugged around the whole movie on account of his brains and plucky comic relief. None of that nonsense. Yeah, aliens invade, but this is the “Saving Private Ryan” of the alien invasion subgenre. I’ve never liked “Independence Day”. It’s got the cerebral capacity of a box of raisin bran, and is honestly deserving of the Playskool’s “My First Alien Invasion Movie” accolade. “Battle L.A.” however, is a war movie, and a guy movie to the core, sans the cheesy acting, i.e it’s done right.

Guy movies don’t have to be brainless. They can have a coherent storyline that’s built around brotherhood, guns, patriotism, etc. Sure, there are some hokey lines here and there (though to the writers” credit, they’re not tossed out as sappy one-liners, something you might expect from this genre *cough* that certain 1996 movie *ahem*), but they’re so forgivable in light of the film’s intensity. Once the Marines land, well, it’s Semper Fi til the credits roll. How’s that for hokey lines?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mega Tron, age 24 (USA)
Positive—No offense to the reviewer of this film but… I’m not sure we saw the same movie nor do I care what you wish Hollywood would start doing. This is an action movie about a war being fought on US soil. Instead of the protagonists being from another county, however, they are from another planet. If the viewers can wrap their heads around that detail, I believe they will find this film to extremely entertaining, enthralling, and a testimony to human sacrifice, courage, and bravery. Lets face the truth… If I was a Marine sent to fend off whatever these things are, I really wouldn’t care why they’re here. I would just want to know how to get rid of them. And that is what this movie is about.

I enjoyed how the aliens were portrayed not as mindless creatures but as a military force doing their job. It seemed to give a sense of realism to sci-fi film that I had never seen before. As far as the objectionable content… there was one f-bomb (any more and it would be rated “R”) and other swears throughout, but I honestly don’t know if faced with the same situation I would keep my speech free from cussing. The violence is intense. Of course it is, it’s a war movie. However, there is no blood, but an interesting scene of Eckhart’s character and a vet dissecting a wounded alien to find it’s weakness. Again, no blood, but intense.

All of that said, I really enjoyed the move. Is this a film for children? Obviously not. But I feel it is appropriate for teens and adults alike or enjoyable for a guys night out.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Paul, age 30 (USA)
Positive—I think Robert MacLean’s review basically says it all. I enjoyed the film. I was, however, interrupted a number of times in the film by urgent telephone calls—no one was affected, except me, as the cinema was virtually empty, and my cell was on silent. But I noticed that so long as I watched, I missed nothing, even without the dialogue. I think that gives you an idea of how predictable the film is. The bad language is a turn-off. There seemed to be a glimpse of a trooper reading the Bible. There was nothing sexual that I saw.

There are many worse films that your children could see, but the violence is unremitting—it is a war film, after all! In spiritual terms, the film is empty calories, but that is better than spiritual poison. For those of us who remember the pro-Communist films during or concerning the Vietnam or Korean Wars attacking our troops, this is film is a refreshing change.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Blue, age 52 (Australia)
Positive—I liked this film’s war-movie feeling. It added to the much overused “alien invasion” plot. I felt like I could have gotten to know the characters a little better before the story jumped into the action, but that, and a gross scene involving an alien dissection, would be my only complaints.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Annie Simmons, age 19 (USA)
Positive—As far as alien movies go, I thought the review was unfair to call it unoriginal. This is the first movie I’ve seen where the invading aliens behave like real soldiers and not cookie cutter death ray machines. You see the aliens performing tactics like strategic withdrawal, and you’ll see them rush out during firefights to grab wounded comrades. And, I also like how, for once, the humans defeat the aliens in a tactical combat engagement, instead of getting saved by a deus ex machina plot element like a virus or computer bug.

Morally, the movie has some good points—like determination, even when things are looking grim. This can easily be used as a metaphor for teaching Christians about spiritual warfare. Like the soldiers, we often feel outnumbered and outmatched, especially in our fast paced society, riddled with all sorts of high tech methods of attacking the Christian spirit that we can feel powerless against.

If parents don’t object to viewing a PG-13 movie that has violence and language, this film could be used in conjunction with a teen youth lesson on how to stay determined, look out for one another, and think outside the box in a world of high tech spiritual warfare.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tyler Lee, age 29 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—The movie was a US Marines vs. the invading space aliens bent on wiping out humanity flick. Think of an updated ID4, this time focusing on US Marines at the tactical ground (squad) level. It was very gory in places, and it was violent as should be expected from the previews.

We counted at least ten G-Ds, and at least three more use of our Lord’s name in vain. Multiple F-bombs, and s-bombs littered the film. It seems that Hollywood wants to stick by its stereotypes of soldiers and Marines as regularly foul-mouthed individuals. That is not my own experience as a combat veteran, but Hollywood will do what it will do. Unfortunately, the profanity lacing the film ruined what would otherwise have been an entertaining movie. For that reason, recommend watching it filtered once it comes out on DVD.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Jay, age 41 (USA)
Neutral—When I saw the trailer for the first time I thought of ID4 but after I saw it, it is more of a war movie. The alien factor hardly has anything to do with the plot, it means you can put the North Koreans as the invading forces and it won’t really change a lot. The biggest disappointment is the non-stop camera shaking from beginning to end which makes you feel that the director doesn’t want you to see the imperfections in shooting the film. It was that bad, I felt I needed to pop in a couple of Tylenol's heading out of the theater.

The writer decided to dwell on the story about a handful of surviving marines trying to rescue a few civilians. That was it an that was the movie in its entirety. The alien aspect just kind of wandered around aimlessly. On the positive side, the action sequence was pretty good but depressing. Again if you can handle the camera shake torture.

I say wait for it on DVD. The only moral lesson we can take home is that sacrificial love knows no bounds as Christ died for us, we should copy His example not necessarily dying for someone but dying from our own selfish ambitions, pride and the “me first” attitude. I thought that the sacrifice made by one of the civilians was touching.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Tades Jacob, age 43 (USA)
Neutral—When I saw the first trailer for “Battle: L.A.,” I knew I had to go see it in theaters. Now that I have, I’m not so sure it was worth it. I didn’t really expect much, because it’s an action film, and I got one. Hardly any plot, okay characters (though Eckhart’s is a good one), but plenty of booming—literally—popcorn-eating-inducing fun.

The violence almost reached an R-rated level. So many filmmakers try to trim or just not show quite enough to get a PG-13 rating, which I think is dumb. If you’re going to make a film as intense as this one, just give it an R and be done with it. More people can get into a PG-13, but in “Battle: L.A.,” it’s obvious how hard the producers tried to keep it tamer than an R. I’m not saying the film would have been better had it been R, but it just irks me when I know editing is being done for the sole sake of a lower rating—there will probably be an R-rated cut when it’s released on video anyway.

I also want to note the directing. Lots of people don’t like the “shaky” technique, and I completely understand. However, this movie isn’t like “Cloverfield,” because that was WAY shaky. “Battle: L.A.” was filmed in motion, the camera never stops moving, but it doesn’t necessarily shake—this method was used in “The Hurt Locker,” which was a fantastic film. The filming method has an intrigue to it, if used in war films. War is a messy matter, the messy filming seems appropriate and gave me a sense of how intense a battle can be.

Overall, I could have waited to rent this movie. Wasn’t as good as it could have been (the friend I went with compare it to a video game—because the soldier’s progress through exceedingly harder levels, and then face the “boss”), but still entertaining enough.

Lastly, I didn’t think of ID4 at all—that movie was just dreadfully horrible… but that’s a different discussion.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Benjamin Badger, age 19 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I’m a Latino Christian, and I’m getting sick and tired of all these Hollywood films of female Latina actresses playing in reversal roles of the just-as-tough as men combat Marines. In the movie, she was a technical specialist from the Air Force. In the movie, she immediately starts fighting with our men Marines, all through the movie. In the Bible, God called on only men for combat duty, all over the Old Testament. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Robert Garcia, age 63 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—“Battle: Los Angeles” was probably my oasis in the desert of recently released films. For the past few months, I have going to the movies with my family, each time hoping to find something worth talking about and remembering. After reading a few reviews on “Battle: L.A.,” I have noticed that many people were expecting some sort of film geared towards aliens or something, which is fine, because after watching previews I thought, “Ah, no, its another ‘Skyline’.” I’m glad, honored even, to say that I was wrong. There isn’t much to say about the movie, because it was an open and close type of thing (the movie starts, you get pulled in, you’re in the action now, and then right when you’re satisfied, bam it’s over). The camera isn’t as “shaky” as people are saying, if we were to compare it to “Cloverfield” on shakiness, on a scale of 1-10 (ten being “Cloverfield”), “Battle: L.A.” would probably be a 4 or a 5.

As far as morals go, this is about as clean as the world gets without God. I believe it would be a great way to introduce the world’s secular standards (as far as appropriate behavior goes). Not much else to say, but it would be best for younger viewers to watch with a maturer individual.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jorge, age 17 (USA)
Positive—This movie was nonstop action. I really liked it and thought it was extremely entertaining and never found myself wondering how much time is left in the movie. As far as content goes, it was violent, but it’s a alien war movie—it’s gonna be. There was no sexual content. There wasn’t that much language, in my opinion. If you’re being shot at and in a life or death situation, it’s very unlikely that you’re gonna hear yourself saying “Oh, shoot, I’m being shot at.” So, just like other war-action movies, it cusses, as expected, to make it realistic. In all, it was a fantastic video, and I see myself seeing it again in theaters and buying the movie on Blueray.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jon, age 16 (USA)
Positive—Battle: LA is an excellent movie in terms of excitement. It is literally non stop action from about 5 minutes into the movie to the very end. I thought there was a lot of violence for a PG-13 movie. The only problem I had with the movie is how hard they tried to make it PG-13. I have never seen a war movie that says “freakin” in it. As far as offensive content, this movie is right in between a PG-13 and R rating. I do think this movie is okay for mature 12 and 13 year olds. Overall, it is a great movie and worth seeing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Caleb, age 13 (USA)
Positive—This movie was overall amazing. The graphics were cool, the story suspenseful and tragic, and the action non-stop. There was nothing related to any kind of religion, but the reason I rated this “better than average” was because the fact that the aliens are attacking the Earth could put ideas into kids under 9, if they are allowed to watch PG-13 rated movies. The cursing and cussing is mild, and there are no other words in the movie that are used, except for sh** and damn. If parents allow their 9 and older kids play teen or mature rated video games, they will love this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Trevor, age 13 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I would like to comment on reviewers and viewers who make statements about “at least 1 F-bomb” or “multiple F-bombs” in relation to PG-13 movies. I have seen it here, and also in reviews for “The Adjustment Bureau.” I think it is important to understand the MPAA movie rating guidelines that state, “A film’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead the Rating Board to issue a film an R rating.” Hence the “R” rating on “The King’s Speech.” There are not “multiple F-bombs” in PG-13 movies, but based on what is allowed in the ratings guidelines, we should all be prepared to hear one, because you know that Hollywood will push the envelope and do all that they can get away with. Please try to be accurate in your reviews; as Christians we should not exaggerate to make a point.
—Kay, age 47 (USA)