Movie review: Drama, action, intrigue are all alien to ‘Battle: Los Angeles’

Al Alexander

The ridiculously dull “Battle: Los Angeles” can best be described as the tea party version of “War of the Worlds,” with spindly, non-descript extraterrestrials serving as a euphemistic representation of the illegal aliens that have right-wingers erecting walls along our borders.

The visitors come not in peace, you see, but to pillage our precious resources. No, not jobs, silly; they want our water. Yes, water. Apparently no one told the spacemen that our supplies are rapidly turning to poison thanks to oil spills and fracking for natural gas.

To this, I say, let ’em have it. Better the water end up killing them instead of us. The filmmakers want to “let ’em have it,” too, but in a more violent, less rational manner. Yes, in the grand tradition of Michael Bay, they want to riddle them with barrages of bullets, bombs and boring military types firing off patriotic platitudes faster than they fire their weapons.

Where it leads, everybody knows. Nothing, and I mean, nothing, is the least bit original. The aliens look like they wandered over from the set of the “Star Trek” sequel, the soldiers are standard-issue dullards and the explosions look as fake as the smile on the face of Tom Brady’s baby mama, Bridget Moynahan.

She’s plays a vet in this video-arcade of a movie. No, not a solider – a real vet, one who treats animals and, as it turns out, people. Apparently humans and cats aren’t that different after all, or at least for this movie’s vague purposes they aren’t. Still, she’s perhaps the most memorable character in a quickly forgettable film.

If only I could also forget the time I wasted on it. That would be close to two hours, time better spent at the RMV or chatting with an insurance salesman. Both, I might add, infinitely more fascinating than anything director Jonathan Liebesman pulls from his shallow bag of tricks.

But, then, what would you expect from the guy whose previous claim to fame was the flop “Darkness Falls” about the legendary Fall River tooth fairy. No fairies here, though. “Battle: Los Angeles” is as manly as they come. Even the one female soldier, a helicopter pilot embodied by Michelle Rodriguez (say, didn’t she just play the same role in “Avatar”?) is borderline butch.

I could buy all the macho BS if the film was set in Crawford, Texas, or Wasilla, Alaska. But this is L.A., damn it, home to one of the largest gay populations in the nation. Oh, wait, this isn’t set in L.A. – it’s set in nearby Santa Monica. I guess “Battle: Santa Monica” didn’t have quite the same ring. Oh, well, who cares where it’s set as long as everything gets blown up real good?

Leading the master blasters is a slumming Aaron Eckhart, fresh off his searing portrayal of a grieving father in “Rabbit Hole.” Here, he’s more into his Two Face role from “The Dark Knight,” in which he played a principled man harboring a dark side. Only this time he’s far less compelling as Marine Staff Sgt. Nantz, a lifer who is being drummed out of the service due to a fatal blunder.

With a plot right out of “Airplane,” Nantz is presented with a chance at redemption when a series of preposterous events force him to step to the fore and save the world from alien domination while escorting a handful of shell-shocked survivors to safety. Will he succeed? Does Michael Bay make idiotic movies?

Yes, he does, but never one as idiotic as this and that includes “Pearl Harbor” and the first “Transformers” sequel. Those twin turkeys no doubt gave Liebesman inspiration in his quest to make the worst sci-fi flick since “Battlefield Earth.”

Give Liebesman credit though for recycling trash, both literally and figuratively, with this clangy, clunky rattletrap pitting iron-encased aliens against iron-headed Americans. It brings a whole new meaning to iron-y.

I can honestly say this is the only movie I’ve seen where the characters are as vague and unknowable at the end as they were at the beginning. Call me prejudiced, but other than Eckhart, Moynahan and Rodriguez, I swear every person looked exactly the same, no matter if they were white, black or Latin. But then they’re really nothing more than cardboard placeholders for the real actors, who wisely never show up.

The only person of less significance than the supporting cast is writer Chris Bertolini, who somehow gets credit for a derivative script that is a mere cobbling of the worst aspects of “War of the Worlds” and “Black Hawk Down.”

At least the Tea Party folks, and, yes, you Lou Dobbs, will be happy to know that the invading aliens lose in the end. But no one in the film seems to realize that one of the consequences is an America reduced to a pile of smoldering ruins.

Al Alexander may be reached at

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language.) Cast includes Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. 1 star out of 4.