*** (out of four)
Rough timing: Less than one day after Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) receives clearance to retire from the Marines, a worldwide extraterrestrial invasion (centralized in L.A. since aliens are, like, so Hollywood) requires him to jump to action. Soldiers with the usual backstories (one about to get married, one expecting a child, etc.) help Nantz battle the creatures, which purr like velociraptors and look like what resulted when Robocop got it on with the part-human, part-animal being from “Splice.”
The buzz: Directed by the guy behind “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” “Battle: Los Angeles” looks like a bigger budget version of last year’s flop “Skyline.” It features “District 9”-esque spaceships and a strong whiff of “Transformers” meets “Independence Day.” For what it’s worth, “Battle: LA” is, ahem, based on a true story of a perceived attack on the city in 1942, which some speculate was the work of non-human visitors.
The verdict: A full metal racket, “Battle: Los Angeles” is like a Michael Bay movie without the meatheaded, over-the-top indifference that usually implies. Yes, this inter-species clash features 5 zillion bullets and a few corny pep talks, and eventually the awesomeness of the relentless, frighteningly depicted destruction subsides. Yet Eckhart’s a perfectly imperfect hero, and director Jonathan Liebesman keeps things low to the ground as if he’s making a war movie, not an action movie. Amidst the chaos and limited visibility, these Marines are terrified and in awe of what they see, and who can blame them? The explosive “Battle: Los Angeles” has more than enough urgent, “Whoa”-inducing moments to turn most viewers into Keanu Reeves.
Did you know? Nantz firmly states that there are “no promises in combat.” He does not, however, say anything one way or the other about pinky swears.
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