Reviewed by: Robert MacLean
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|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
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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.