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On August 11, 2011, mysterious objects thought to be meteorites crash into Earth's oceans near several major cities including Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Barcelona, Hamburg, and Sydney. These crashed objects are revealed to be spacecraft containing hostile alien forces. The U.S. Marines from Camp Pendleton arrive in Los Angeles to defend against alien ground forces and assist in the evacuation of civilians in preparation for a bombing campaign. Among the military's forces are Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant of 20-years who lost many men under his command during his last deployment. Nantz had planned to retire, but the situation requires him to replace the platoon sergeant of a platoon from "E" Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines.
The Platoon Commander, 2nd Lieutenant William Martinez (Ramón Rodríguez), attends a briefing at an FOB (Forward Operating Base). The platoon's mission is to rescue civilians from an LAPD police station with a three-hour time limit before the Air Force bombs the entire area. They are ambushed by aliens multiple times and suffered casualties. They also encounter a group of U.S. Army soldiers from the 40th Infantry Division, including an Air Force intelligence Technical Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez). Eventually, the combined team reaches the police station, finding five civilians inside. A helicopter arrives and attempts to evacuate some of the wounded Marines, but it is destroyed by an alien air unit upon takeoff.
The Marines commandeer a bus for evacuation. Prior to evacuation, they find a wounded alien and with the help of one of the civilians, they learn of the aliens' weaknesses and military tactics; finding that the alien infantry have a weak point in the torso ("to the right of where the heart should be"), that the alien attack aircraft are remote-controlled drones and the aliens monitor and locate Earth military forces through monitoring their radio communications. The Marines speculate that there must be a central command center, and that its destruction would eliminate control of the alien drones, opening the enemy forces to air attack. On a freeway, the bus is attacked and the Marines begin rappelling the civilians off the side of the freeway. One of the civilians, Joe Rincon (Michael Peña), is wounded after firing an M-16 rifle,he picked up, on the aliens. Martinez is also wounded and sacrifices himself to destroy an enemy unit by detonating C-4 explosives inside the bus, shortly after placing Nantz in command of the platoon.
Nantz leads what remains of the platoon outside the bombing zone, and they rest at a convenience store. A news report speculates that the aliens have attacked Earth for its water supply which they use as fuel. The team waits for the bombing to begin, but nothing happens. They arrive at the FOB, only to discover that it has already been destroyed by the aliens, nullifying the airstrike. They decide to head for another extraction point, where a helicopter should be available to evacuate them. Before they embark, Rincon dies of his wounds and Corporal Lockett (whose brother died under Nantz's command) openly doubts Nantz's ability to lead. Nantz reassures him and the platoon reaches the extraction point. As they are being evacuated, Nantz spots a large black area on the ground where electric power seems to be disabled. Nantz believes the black area to be the location of the alien command center and that it is hidden underground. Nantz disembarks from the helicopter and his platoon follows, planning to find the exact location of the command center so they can call in a missile strike.
Going underground, the Marines confirm the presence of a large alien vessel. They return to the surface and succeed in calling in a missile strike using laser designators. However, the command center remains intact and rises from the ground. The Marines repel alien forces as more missiles are launched at the hovering command center, and eventually they destroyed it. This disables all the alien aircraft in the area, forcing the alien ground forces to retreat.
Soon after, the team is extracted to a temporary base in the Mojave Desert, where they are greeted as heroes for their outstanding bravery. All other cities under attack now plan to emulate their strategy, destroying the alien command center in each city. More forces are being sent to Los Angeles to finish off the aliens there. Despite orders to rest, Nantz and the platoon instead rejoin the fight.
- Aaron Eckhart as SSgt Michael Nantz
- Ramón Rodríguez as 2ndLt William Martinez
- Cory Hardrict as Cpl Jason Lockett
- Gino Anthony Pesi as Cpl Nick Stavrou
- Ne-Yo as Cpl Kevin Harris
- James Hiroyuki Liao as LCpl Steven Mottola
- Bridget Moynahan as Michele
- Noel Fisher as PFC Shaun Lenihan
- Adetokumboh M'Cormack as Corpsman Jibril Adukwu
- Bryce Cass as Hector Rincon (son of Joe Rincon)
- Michael Peña as Joe Rincon (father of Hector Rincon)
- Michelle Rodriguez as TSgt Elena Santos
- Joey King as Kirsten
- Neil Brown Jr. as LCpl Richard Guerrero
- Taylor Handley as LCpl Corey Simmons
- Lucas Till as Cpl Scott Grayston
- Kenneth Brown Jr. as Cpl Richard Oswald
- Jadin Gould as Amy
- Joe Chrest as 1stSgt John Roy
- Rus Blackwell as LtCol K.N. Ritchie
- Susie Abromeit as Amanda
- Brandi Coleman as Cherise
- Elizabeth L. Keener as Kathy Martinez
- Lena Clark as Kristy
- Nzinga Blake as Adukwu's Sister
- Will Rothhaar as Cpl Lee Imlay
- Jim Parrack as LCpl Peter Kerns
- Destiny Tolano as Sad Girl (Extra Role)
Jonathan Liebesman intended the film to be a realistic depiction of an alien invasion in the style of a war film, taking inspiration from the films Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, and United 93 for his documentary style of filming. Liebesman also drew inspiration from YouTube videos of Marines fighting in Fallujah for the look of the film. As a result the film was not shot in 3D as the director felt that combined with the handheld camera style of shooting would make the audience "throw up in two minutes." Instead standard film was used, intercutting footage from three different cameras. The filmmakers tested shooting the film digitally on a Red camera, but found the camera could not capture the same quality image as standard film. The film was shot for a PG-13 rating, as the director felt making the film overly gory did not suit the more suspenseful tone they were trying to achieve.
The events of the film are inspired by the Battle of Los Angeles, a falsely suspected air raid of Los Angeles that took place during World War II. The filmmakers chose to use this event as the basis for the film in an attempt to help ground the film in reality. The plot of the film suggests the unidentified aircraft were actually alien UFOs on a reconnaissance mission, scouting the Earth to prepare for an eventual attack, which was then covered up by the government, though the filmmakers have stated they do not actually believe this is what happened in real life. Screenwriter Chris Bertolini tried to include humour and suspense as well as action, which he felt were important elements to help draw the audience into the drama. Aaron Eckhart said that the objective of the film was to make as realistic an alien invasion movie as possible; "The goal was: this is a war movie, a documentary style war movie—with aliens in it." The actors went through three weeks of boot camp, in order to learn how to realistically operate as a marine platoon. In addition, Eckhart had done training with the Marines for a few months beforehand in weapons training and drills. On set, military technical advisors worked with the actors to ensure they gave a realistic performance. Eckhart broke his upper arm when he fell off a ledge during an action sequence, but continued to work for the remainder of the film without having it put in a cast.
While the director tried to use practical effects whenever possible, such as for explosions, 90% of the aliens are computer generated, as the director felt they would be too difficult to achieve practically. The invaders were designed by Paul Gerrard, who made them to appear "very alien", neither arthropod nor vertebrate, while Liebesman described them as "genocidal Nazis... They look at us like we look at ants." Liebesman wanted the aliens to appear to function as a real army, complete with medics and different ranking officers, and using tactics such as taking cover to protect themselves. Liebesman also confirmed that the aliens are invading for the Earth's natural resources, specifically because the Earth is 70% covered with water.
Filming took place from September 2009 through December 2009 in Shreveport and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Louisiana was chosen instead of Los Angeles mainly due to financial advantages. Principal photography began in the second week of September in Shreveport with scenes depicting a destroyed interstate filled with cars, an overturned tanker truck, and a crashed helicopter. Post-production lasted throughout 2010 and into 2011. Special effects used in the principal photography included pyrotechnics. The most climactic of all was a large fireball-producing explosion which was said to have alarmed some residents and passers-by. Film crews implemented use of a large "green-screen" billboard at the base (end) of the "destroyed" interstate to use later for inserting CGI images of Los Angeles.
There was military support for filming, including some scenes filmed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. Numerous Marine units assisted in filming, including infantry from 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, MV-22 Ospreys from VMMT-204 (based at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina), CH-46 Sea Knights from HMM-268 and HMM-774 (based in Camp Pendleton and Naval Station Norfolk, respectively), and reservists from 3rd Battalion 23rd Marines based in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
Sony Pictures Entertainment investigated the possibility of legal action against the filmmakers Greg and Colin Strause, who were hired to do visual effects work on Battle: Los Angeles through their special effects company Hydraulx. Sony Pictures suspected the Strause brothers had created their own Los Angeles-based alien invasion film Skyline, which would compete with the Battle: Los Angeles release, by using resources they had gained while working on Battle: Los Angeles without the consent of Sony Pictures. A spokesman for the Strauses responded by saying, "Any claims of impropriety are completely baseless. This is a blatant attempt by Sony to force these independent filmmakers to move a release date that has long been set by Universal and Relativity and is outside the filmmakers' control."
As of 2011, a first-person shooter video game developed by Live Action Studios and published by Konami has been released on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam on 11 March, the OnLive game service (as part of its Playpack subscription service) on 15 March, and on PlayStation Network on 22 March. Eckhart reprised his role for the game. Players assume the role of Corporal Lee Imlay throughout the game.
The soundtrack for the film was released on 8 March 2011.
A song used in the trailer is "The Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black" by Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 34% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 174 reviews, with an average score of 4.8/10. The website reported the critical consensus, "Overlong and overly burdened with war movie clichés, Battle: Los Angeles will entertain only the most ardent action junkies". The Rotten Tomatoes "Audience" rating stands at 57%; the "Top Critics" section stands at 21%. Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 37 (out of 100) based on 35 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "Generally unfavorable reviews".
Roger Ebert panned Battle: Los Angeles in a lengthy review, calling the movie "noisy, violent, ugly and stupid", giving the film a mere half star rating. Though he praised Aaron Eckhart's performance, Ebert heavily criticised the film's writing, effects designs, camerawork and editing. He closed his review by saying, "When I think of the elegant construction of something like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, I want to rend the hair from my head and weep bitter tears of despair. Generations of filmmakers devoted their lives to perfecting techniques that a director like Jonathan Liebesman is either ignorant of, or indifferent to. Yet he is given millions of dollars to produce this assault on the attention span of a generation."
Battle: Los Angeles was given poor reviews by the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and Variety. Kim Newman of Empire rated the film 2 stars out of 5 and criticized its lack of originality. Nigel Floyd of Time Out rated the film 2 stars saying that it "... lumbers the flat military characters with hackneyed dialogue and corny sentimentality".
Neil Smith of Total Film magazine rated the film as 3 stars out of 5 and summarized, "Imagine Black Hawk Down with ET's instead of Somalis and you'll have the measure of an explosive if functional actioner that will do while we're waiting for summer's big guns to arrive". Both the Radio Times and the Chicago Tribune also rated the film 3 out of 5. IGN rated the film 3 out of 5, stating that the film has spectacular visuals and intense action packed scenes.
Battle: Los Angeles debuted in 3,417 theaters, grossing $13,399,310 on its opening day, which was currently the best opening-day gross for 2011. Overall the film made $35,573,187 and ranked #1 on its opening weekend ahead of Red Riding Hood and Mars Needs Moms. The film dropped to #2 after a week when Rango topped the box office on St. Patrick Day. As of April 5, 2011, the film has grossed $79,133,914 in the United States and Canadian markets and $96,135,168 in international markets, for a worldwide total of $175,269,082.
At the end of it's Cinema run, the film has grossed $83,552,429 in US markets and $128,266,925 in international markets. The worldwide total of $211,819,354. (The production budget is estimated at $70,000,000)