Destined to be remembered primarily as yet another step toward closing the gap between games and movies, the essence of “Battle: Lost Angeles” is a lot of boom-boom and a bunch of “ooo-rah.” And essence is all it is; no room here for anything but action. That’s a good thing because every time they start talking, you hope for the chases and explosions to start up again.
We see that the world is under attack and then we see 24 hours earlier, just enough time for brief introductions to the characters we’ll be following. Come on, say it along with me! Seen-it-all and seen-too-much vet on his last assignment, still struggling with survivor guilt over the men who died on his watch, innocent from the sticks whose mother signed for him to enlist at 17, guy about to get married, Navy corpsman earning his American citizenship and hoping to become a doctor, team leader just out of Officers Training School and about to become a father, etc. etc. It doesn’t matter much because pretty soon they will all be wearing so much gear and running around so fast we will hardly be able to tell them apart.
At first, it appears to be meteor showers that for some reason were undetected until they were about to crash off the coast of California and some other regions. But then we learn that the objects hurtling toward earth are slowing on descent; they are mechanical. And then stuff starts blowing up in a “textbook military operation” from another planet. And they have all the intel. We know nothing about who they are, what they want, what weapons they have, and basically, how to stop them from the complete annihilation that appears to be their goal. Troops are mobilized and deployed, with circumstances changing so quickly around them that quickly they are providing more information and support than they are getting. Our group is originally sent to rescue a small group of civilians and get them out of the way before US forces bomb the city to eradicate the enemy. But things are far worse than they thought. Contrary to their briefing, the aliens are attacking by air as well as ground. Their mission becomes survival, recon, and then out and out combat.
It tries to be “Independence Day” crossed with “Black Hawk Down.” It doesn’t come close to either. It’s howlingly bad in places, with clunky construction and ham-handed attempts to insert moments of drama in the midst of all the action (one of the men just happens to be the brother of a Marine who died under the Staff Sergeant’s command, and sadder but wiser civilians and fighting forces learn that war with aliens is hellier than ever). No one expects this film to be anything more than a delivery system for adrenaline and testosterone, with a bit of alien autopsy and some welcome recognition of the abilities and integrity of the military, but even in that category, it doesn’t pass muster.