The alien invasion plot has been well overdone and consequently audiences can pretty much predict how the story unfolds: characters having a good day with the family, a sudden alien invasion, some people die, and either the human race prevails or the aliens wipe out everyone.
Another factor that makes this sort of movies a bit unbearable is that they can take themselves too seriously and strive to be something they obviously aren’t.
Battle: LA, however, does not suffer from this flaw. In the trailer, the movie is introduced as a straight-up action movie with no pause to relax; and that is exactly what it delivers.
The movie opens with a shot of Marines — Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), and Lieutenant Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) — in a helicopter hovering over the now-destroyed city of Los Angeles. The movie does the usual 24-hour rewind to inform the audience how this tragedy occurred. From there, the movie follows the story of this group of Marines as they try to make their way through and out of Los Angeles before the Air Force levels the area (much like Resident Evil: Apocalypse and any other virus outbreak movie). Eventually, the characters run into Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) and some civilians and the movie suddenly develops a bit of a sentimental value.
Since the Earth is being attacked by aliens, the action is predictably over the top. The invaders are a weird mix of an actual, organic being and machine parts (think Terminator, but then make him a bit scaly and grotesque looking). They fire guns that cause third degree burns, they have drone planes that look like an even more advanced stealth fighter, and the aliens even have this weird rail gun that shoots six charged missiles.
Throughout the movie I only expected the action, but the sudden introduction of civilians added a surprisingly good human element. The relationship between Hector and his father really hit me hard, but that might just be for personal reasons. Regardless, the movie has some extremely likeable characters who, though you may not care about them when they die, add depth to the plot.
One good thing the movie accomplishes is that it knows what it is — an over-the-top action-alien invasion movie — and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Even in the short sentimental moments, the movie never really lets the suspense go, only because the aliens are so resourceful and smart (except for the fact that they still pick up grenades; why can’t any advanced alien race be smart enough not to do that?)
If you’re in the mood for some straight-up action, go see Battle: LA; you will not be disappointed.