Battle: Los Angeles: War of the Cliches


Which movie am I in this time?

Battle: Los Angeles isn't a remake, but chances are you've seen pretty much everything in it before. An alien invasion flick shot in jittery, faux-newsreel style, it serves up a smorgasbord of lamely repackaged movie moments ripped off from other, better films—and little else.

Movie geeks who want to play spot-the-reference will at least have something to keep them busy. The movie, which stars Aaron Eckhart and a cast of relative unknowns as Marines battling aliens in the streets of L.A., starts War of the Worlds-style, with news media accounts of strange happenings—and, eventually, an alien invasion force landing off the coasts of the world's biggest cities. It finishes much like Independence Day, with a sacrifice-filled battle against a hulking alien command ship, and the subsequent passing along of info about how to beat the rest of the extraterrestrial baddies. (Consider this a non-spoiler: The good guys win, at least if you ignore the destruction of most of L.A.) The vaguely insectoid invaders look suspiciously like slightly modified robotic cousins of the aliens in District 9. Just about everything in between comes across as equally reheated.

Not all of the source material comes from the alien-invasion category of your Netflix queue: Director Jonathan Liebesman previously helmed a prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and he recycles plenty from the horror genre too: There's the it's-only-a-pet fakeout, the reanimating baddie who just won't die, the moment of relief/levity violently interrupted by a flash of terror. Mostly, though, Liebesman borrows from against-all-odds war movies like Saving Private Ryan and, in particular, Black Hawk Down—hence the gritty, war-torn ambiance. Even the score seems to have nabbed Inception's thudding foghorn-blast as its primary musical cue.

Maybe if you liked most of those movies, you'll also like this one? Sadly, I doubt it. Liebesman managed to appropriate a host of familiar scenes and situations from Hollywood's war-and-invasion oeuvres, but forgot to steal a story or characters worth watching. There are a few clever action gags disbursed throughout, but mostly it's a mish-mash of meaningless military-movie cliches and copycat conflicts any infrequent moviegoer has seen a half-dozen times before. Despite its title, Battle doesn't even bother to deliver an authentic Los Angeles; most of the city scenes were shot in Louisiana on account of the state's generous film subsidies. (Apparently Liebesman is also willing to take money borrowed from taxpayers.)

Worse, the movie can't even muster the commitment to stand by its own banalities. About two-thirds of the way through the film, Eckhart launches into one of the most earnestly corny monologues in recent movie memory, a brutally cheesy go-for-the-gold motivator about the need to press forward at all costs despite personal rivalries, setbacks, and blah, blah, blah—and then, after a well-placed dramatic pause, says "None of that matters right now." He's more right than he knows, though; in this warmed over exercise in cinematic copy-and-paste, very little matters at all.

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  1. The good guys win, at least if you ignore the destruction of most of L.A.

    I should think that would be a bonus.

    1. Um, yeah. That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

  2. I was thinking about seeing this because the frightened caveman in me will always enjoy vastly superior aliens getting killed inexplicably by the de facto heroic humans regardless of cliches and cheesiness. It’s like ancient Aztecs bringing down an F-22 fighter with a giant slingshot. What’s not to love?

    Then again, is it worth 10 bucks and 2-3 hours of one’s life and friends and girlfriends telling me I was an idiot for seeing it and making them see it until I’m dead(I’m looking at you Van Helsing)? Meh…free hardcore pornography wins again. At least it’s “plot” makes “sense.”

    1. You can wait till the end? 😉

      1. No, No I can’t. Whores don’t pimp themselves.

    2. It’s been 11 years since I took my wife to see Ghost Dog. She still brings it up as an example of why I shouldn’t pick movies and/or why my taste in movies sucks.

      1. Ghost Dog was awesome!

  3. As long as they focus on the violence and don’t spend too much time with kissing, hugging, saying “I love you, baby” and all that BS, I’m fine with that movie.

    And yes, I do like kissing and hugging, but I like it in porn.

    Scholarships for White Students – Racist or Fair?…..hy-is.html

  4. …it serves up a smorgasbord of lamely repackaged movie moments ripped off from other, better films?and little else.

    Better films? Then I better see the Marines drilling on an meteor or battling space bugs.

  5. please let it have a feisty hispanic female marine machine gun specialist. that would be different.

    1. Oh Vasquez. You just too baaad.

  6. Was it better than the ending of BSG?

    1. A ruse! Everyone knows that BSG was cancelled after the second season and never had an ending.

      Put the lotion in the basket

  7. How do you make Baton Rouge look like LA? And how much did this piece of work cost me?

    1. CGI.

      About $52.

  8. He’s more right than he knows, though; in this warmed over exercise in cinematic copy-and-paste, very little matters at all.

    Netflix! Netflix!

  9. “Ambience” “faux” “cinematic”….

    That’s some excellent reviewin’. This boy has certainly paid attention during Transformers 1 and 2.

    Watch out Loder, Suderman’s gonna take your job!

  10. Why can’t they make a decent Sci-Fi movie based on a real novel? “Footfall”, “A Hymn Before Battle”, “Live Free or Die”, any of the “Man-Kzin Wars”, anything by David Drake, Michael Z. Williamson, etc…

    I can only think of 2 Sci-Fi movies based on decent books: “2001” and “Starship Troopers”. “2001” was a masterpiece and Troopers was an abomination.

    1. 2001 wasn’t based on the book. Clarke was writing the book at the same time the film was being made.
      The film Starship Troopers has nothing in common with the novel, and isn’t that bad if you watch it as a dark comedy.

      1. “nothing in common”?

        It’s got giant space bugs and space marines doesn’t it? Although if the book doesn’t have a co-ed shower then I don’t want to read it.

      2. The movie 2001:SO was based on the novella The Sentinel by Clarke. If you read it, the entire movie makes complete sense.

        I thought Starship Troopers was sublime satire, though I wonder if that was the intent by the filmmaker….

        1. Yes and no. The Sentinel was a jumping off point, as was Childhood’s End.
          But, Kubrik and Clarke wrote the screenplay as primarily an original work inspired by those two stories (neither of which are credited in the film), and then Clarke wrote the novel.

        2. I saw an interview with Paul Verhoeven, the director of Starship Troopers. He said he made the film to show what Fascism is really like.

          I don’t think that was Heinlein’s intention – it seems that Heinlein really believed in the premise of only soldiers should be citizens. But maybe I am wrong about Heinlein.

          1. Heinlein wrote the book to show what Liberty, personal responsibility and Libertarianism was really like. While he was alive, he never would have let such a Hollywood douche-bag touch his story.

            If Verhoeven wanted to a story about Fascism, he should have chosen a story about … Fascism.

            He might have hired at least one military vet also. We fight on other planets with old Austrian rifles, in a mob, without mortars, grenade launchers, rockets, artillery, etc… WTF?

  11. “(Apparently Liebesman is also willing to take money borrowed from taxpayers.)”

    My understanding of borrowing is that it came with an obligation of repayment. The word you’re looking for is “stolen” or “confiscated”, depending on your view of the legitimacy of the taking.

  12. shot in jittery, faux-newsreel style

    I’m out. If I want to have a fucking seizure, I’ll smoke some salvia, thankyouverymuch.

    Why can’t they make a decent Sci-Fi movie based on a real novel?

    I wish I knew. I can’t tell you how many sci-fi books I’ve read that would make a damn fine movie.

    1. I want to see Zelazny’s Amber of Lords of Light made…But I want Johnny Depp as Random and Matt Damon as Corwin.

      1. make that “or” Lords of Light

  13. The good guys win, at least if you ignore the destruction of most of L.A.

    Why would I ignore that? Feature, not bug!

  14. HOLY CRAP!!! From Wiki…praise be to FSM for Wiki:

    Film versionIn 1979 it was announced that Lord of Light would be made into a 50 million dollar film. It was planned that the sets for the movie would be made permanent and become the core of a science fiction theme park to be built in Aurora, Colorado. Famed comic-book artist Jack Kirby was even contracted to produce artwork for set design. However, due to legal problems the project was never completed.

    Parts of the unmade film project,[vague] the script and Kirby’s set designs, were subsequently acquired by the CIA as cover for an exfiltration team for six US diplomatic staff trapped ? in Tehran but outside the embassy compound ? by the Iranian hostage crisis. The team had a version of the script, renamed to Argo; they pretended to be scouting a location in Iran for shooting a Hollywood film from that script.[4][5]

    1. Wow — that’s somethin’ I never knew….

  15. I personally like this line from Roger Ebert’s review of the film.

    Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you’ve been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart.

  16. Tim Minear (Firefly) is trying to make a movie of “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, and promises not to take out the libertarianism.

  17. They did make a feature film about the actual Battle of Los Angeles: 1941.

    1. One of my favorite guilty pleasures (with some amazing miniature work).

  18. The reality is that any species advanced enough to send an invasion fleet across light-years to take over a planet whose most intelligent species is so technologically backward that it has no permanent colonies off-planet, much less in another stellar system — well, that advanced technology species will flatten the natives.

    1. Plus, given the vastness of space, first contact would likely be with a lightly armed scoutship or trader that figures out our weaknesses and exploits them — trades the equivalent of alien brightly colored beads for a few tons of gold.

      1. It was not clear in the review, but the premise of Battle:Los Angeles is that the “Battle of Los Angeles” in 1942 – the unexplained sighting that led to a blackout and furious anti-aircraft fire, but no apparent downing of a plane – was in fact an alien scout ship making a reconnaissance run to prepare for the later invasion, which is happening right about now.

    2. Unless there’s a nasty case of the flu going around that the aliens are susceptible to….

  19. Nobody here cares, but I’ll toss it out there anyhow.

    “he recycles plenty from the horror genre too: … the reanimating baddie who just won’t die”

    For the record, this conceit is centuries old. In Orlando Furioso (16th C), the unstoppable muslim terro- er warrior (islamophobia never goes out of style, either) Rodomonte seems finally undone about 2/3rds the way through this longest of European poems. However, at the end of it all, when the hero and heroine are finally united and all is going to be well….Rodomonte returns.

    (Spoiler alert: the good guys win.)

  20. The SyFy channel parody (or tribute) titles “Battle of Los Angeles” will premiere tomorrow night, March 12 on SyFy.

    Quick work!

  21. The overall storyline was perfect had me entertained from start to finish. Personally I think that Battle: Los Angeles is one of the best sci-fi movies to have come out lately. If you haven’t seen it you definitely should. One way you can see it is by using Blockbuster Online. As a DISH Network customer and employee I can tell you that right now if you switch to DISH Network you can get Blockbuster Online FREE for 3 months! There are over 100,000 titles to choose from like Battle: Los Angeles, TV shows and games you can get through the mail. Plus you can get 5 in-store exchanges per month with no due dates or late fees. More info online at

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