They say the more things change, the more they stay the
same. Battle: Los Angeles isn’t really as different from The Sands of Iwo Jima
as all of that. Granted, director Jonathan Liebsman has money, technology, and
special effects that were unimaginable in John Wayne’s day. But at the end of
the day, both are war movies about tough Marine sergeants leading their men
into battle, and the Marines winning through in the end. It’s just that one
move is set on the island of Iwo Jima, with the Marines fighting the Imperial
Japanese army, and the other is set in Los Angeles with the Marines facing off
with extraterrestrial invaders.
Battle: Los Angeles is the biggest, loudest, most
spectacular war movie anyone has seen in a while. It’s not unusual for science
fiction movies to cross genre lines in this way, certainly Aliens and
Independence Day did, but Battle: Los Angeles does so to a remarkable degree.
There’s certainly enough military hardware and combat scenes to get this movie
reviewed here on Strategypage. Besides, it tells us a thing or two about
exactly what exactly has changed since
John Wayne’s time.
The movie opens with Staff Sergeant Nantz ( Aaron Eckhart)
about to retire from the Marine Corps.
But meteor showers headed towards numerous coastal cities force an evacuation of part of LA, and Nantz
is assigned on short notice as a platoon sergeant to a new Second Lieutenant
(Ramon Rodriguez). It quickly becomes clear that these “meteors” are actually
an alien invasion force, and Eckhart and
Martinez must lead their Marines to evacuate civilians from a police station in
an area about to be hammered by an air strike. Before you can say “Bugs, Mr
Rico, zillions of ‘em!”, the Marines, the terrified civilians, and an Air Force
Technical Sergeant played by Michelle Rodriguez (Because there are no female
infantry in the Marines, and there has to be a gun toting female in here
somewhere) are surrounded and fighting for their lives.
It’s probably not a coincidence that a good deal of this
movie takes place in and around a police station, or that it takes place just
as Staff Sergeant Nantz is to retire. War movies, especially about the present
day US military, haven’t been a Hollywood staple for quite some time. Cop
movies have. One of the hoariest cliches is cop movies is that the hero (Or, in
the case of a buddy cop movie, one of the heros), is about to retire. The
evacuation point for these people could have been a high school gym, a mall, a
parking deck, a stadium, or all sorts of things. . To Hollywood, the military
is mostly terra incognita. But they know police stations (Or fancy they do),
they’ve been setting stories in police stations forever, so...it’s a police
station. On the other hand, it wouldn’t occur to them that Marines surrounded in a police station might
break into the arms room, which might contain 5.56mm or something else useful
things. And in fact it doesn’t.
Battle: Los Angeles has a good cast. Eckhart and Ramon
Rodriguez play off each other well, and Eckhart in particular does good
authority figure. Bridget Moynahan, as one of the civilians, hasn’t got a whole
lot to do but looks damn fine doing it. Michelle Rodriguez is basically playing
the same Latina tough chick she’s been typecast into since Girlfight, but she’s
got it down to a fine art by this time, and carries the role effortlessly.
Battle: Los Angeles is good clean fun, dubious science and
all. Time was when these alien invaders would have tried to steal our
individuality, rather like the old Evil Empire used be planning to do. Or maybe
at another time they would have wanted our women. But nowadays Hollywood can’t
imagine anything worse then being politically incorrect or ecologically
unsound, so now they’re out to steal our water. Because this is the only planet
in the whole universe with liquid water, which they can use to fuel their
engines, making this one of the dumbest reasons for an alien invasion, ever.
But it allows Hollywood to do something that even the war
against Osama Bin Laden did not, namely, depict the United States military
heroically. John Wayne could have delivered Staff Sergeant Nantz’s speech about
how Marines don’t quit. But Hollywood, in John Wayne’s time, was still
unabashedly American, and making American movies. Today, Hollywood
executives think of themselves as
globalistas, and make movies for a global audience, many of whom are at best
ambivalent about America (And the Hollywood types are themselves often bitterly
hostile). So real world adversaries,
even Al Qaeda, are verboten. In the event that aliens ever really invade, the
Marines will no doubt fight as they always have. But don’t expect to see Hollywood depict it favorably in the movies, though they make
mouth noises about supporting the troops.