Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THEY CAME FROM OUTER SPACE!: A lone platoon of marines, who are desperately trying to repel an invasion by aliens from outer space who are bent on conquering the planet, is silhouetted by the deadly pyrotechnics that are being rained down on Los Angeles. See the movie to find out who wins the war.

Battle: L.A.: Disgraced Veteran Seeks Redemption During Alien Invasion

Kam Williams

With an apocalyptic plotline and a 100+ million dollar budget, it’s no wonder that Battle: L.A. is being billed as the first summer blockbuster of 2011. Even though it’s still winter, the breathtaking panoramas, the flamboyant pyrotechnics, the eye popping special effects, and the mob scenes of mass hysteria scream “4th of July weekend.”

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel), this action film portrays the exploits of a ragtag team of Marines who are humanity’s last hope to repel an alien invasion that is decimating the planet.

As the film opens, we are introduced to Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) who is being called on the carpet because his platoon’s soldiers suffered heavy casualties in Iraq. The humiliated platoon leader grudgingly agrees to retire immediately after he helps whip the platoon’s replacements into fighting shape.

The new unit is composed of the usual archetypes. There’s Nantz, the battle-hardened veteran who now has to report to an untested lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez). We also have a recruit (Noel Fisher) who is so young that he had to get his parents’ permission to enlist; a corporal (Jim Parrack) who is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from his last tour of duty; a soldier (Ne-Yo) who is about to marry his sweetheart; another marine (Taylor Handley) who knows about Nantz’s checkered past; and the brother (Cory Hardrict) of a soldier who died overseas under the disgraced Sergeant’s command. You get the idea.

The platoon is about to ship out when a mysterious meteor shower turns out to be a legion of hostile extraterrestrials who are armed to the teeth and bent on world domination. With the entire globe suddenly under siege, instead of being deployed to the Middle East, our heroes are sent to Los Angeles. When they arrive, they join forces with Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez), a feisty air force sergeant who is on a reconnaissance mission.

Despite the film’s futuristic bent, Battle: L.A. is essentially an old fashioned war film that unashamedly employs every cliché associated with the genre. For instance, the fate of Lieutenant Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) is cinematically sealed the moment he sits down to write an ominous letter to his pregnant wife back home. Interestingly, the lieutenant’s demise conveniently dovetails with the sergeant’s quest for redemption. Using his earlier battle experience, Nantz proceeds to mount a search and destroy mission for the aliens’ command and control center.

The frenetic action consists of wave after wave of attacks from the aliens intermittently interrupted by sentimental reminders that God is on the marines side and by slogans such as “marines don’t quit!” and “let’s go show ‘em how marines fight!” With no deeper message than that, the film amounts to little more than a two hour recruiting film for the U.S. military.

However, the less cynical people in the audience are likely to rally behind the defenders of Mom and apple pie, and to cheer every enemy kill with approving howls of “Hoo-rah!” (Marine shorthand for “Heard, understood, recognized and acknowledged.”).

Very Good (2½ stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity, scenes of destruction, and sustained, intense violence. Running time: 116 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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