Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles on Blu-ray

A non-standard Hollywood war film, "Battle: Los Angeles" depicts the U.S. military as good guys, heros who risk – and often give – their lives protecting their country and its people.

For that alone, this movie is worth seeing. Fortunately, it has more going for it, though it is definitely not without some very large flaws, one of which is the shaky camera technique that drove us crazy because it's jiggling around so much you have trouble seeing what's going on.

It kind of gives a first person shooter game-type feel to the movie, which could be cool except that we'd rather be able to watch the movie better.

And you'll want to see what's going on because this movie has a really neat look and excellent special effects. The only way you can really experience them, however, is to pause the movie and that also pauses the action, which is a shame.

Aaron Eckhard stars in this blend of "Independence Day," "Starship Troopers" and "War of the Worlds." He's the clichéd Marine veteran with baggage, a Staff Sergeant in this case, forced to serve under a wet behind the ears officer (Ramon Rodriguez) who isn't much use when the battle heats up (until later, of course, when he demonstrates selflessly his true Marine colors).

There are quite a few other Marines along for the mission, too, mostly as "alien cannon fodder" as well as a Tech Sergeant (Michelle Rodriguez) and a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan), the latter of whom they pick up as they're trying to get a group of civilians to safety. 

The mission is basically to get those civilians away from the coastal area the U.S. military is going to try turning to glass in order to defeat the alien invaders (of whose motives and other information we're basically kept in the dark except for some speculation from human characters) and save the world. Yes, the world; while this movie focuses on the battle of Los Angeles, we know the rest of the world is also engaged in the hopeless fight.

Fortunately, the movie picked the right group to follow, because not only do they succeed in their overall mission (though not at no cost), they figure out how to beat the E.T.'s and by the movie's end there's hope for the human race.

The script is definitely full of clichés, but the movie works pretty well if you can get beyond that. The production values are great, there's plenty of action and special effects, and the soundtrack is appropriately loud and brash.

Sony has given "Battle: Los Angeles" a very nice Blu-ray presentation. The movie itself is presented in 1080p/24 at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and the picture is very good, indeed, with wonderful textures and depth that would look absolutely fantastic if the camera would stop shaking long enough to let you see them. Colors are a tad muted, too, though not in the "Saving Private Ryan" manner. The picture is very clean overall, with excellent depth and clarity.

The dts-HD Master Audio soundtrack is guaranteed to give your home theater a good workout, and if you have anything that rattles in your room you might want to glue it down. The audio positively thunders, with a glorious low end, and it fills the room with intensity and fidelity, making excellent use of all the home theater's audio channels.

Extras are decent, including "Behind the Battle", a kind of "making of" thingy in which cast and crew members talk about the film.

"Aliens in L.A." has nothing to do with the illegal immigration problem in California, but rather looks at how they created the aliens, including the use of CGI animation and even conventional props on the set.

There's also a feature on the boot camp the actors took, about how the filmmakers created Los Angeles out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a couple of trailers, and even a  demo of the game "Resistance 3" for PS3's. The latter won't be much use if you're using a conventional Blu-ray player, but PS3 owners might find it a nice touch.

Sony also includes "Command Control," which is a PIP track of interviews and stuff where the cast and crew discuss their roles, with behind-the-scenes footage accompanying. There are storyboard comparisons, CG animation, and more.  

Battle: Los Angeles, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
116 min. 1080/24p widescreen (2.40:1), dts-HD Master Audio
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan
Written by Chris Bertolini, directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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