“I’m a veterinarian.”
Let’s take that line and put it into context. Aliens from… well, space, have invaded. A group of Marines is sent in to rescue trapped civilians from a soon to be destroyed front line. Our troops find an injured alien, some type of mechanical/flesh hybrid, and decide to do a quick autopsy to find the easiest way to kill them. Makes sense, right? That’s when Michele (Bridget Moynahan) asks to help because, you guessed it, she’s a vet.
Surely whatever schooling she had covered anatomy, but you’re dealing with an alien species from an unknown location, never before seen by human eyes. The military ripping this thing to pieces have equal qualifications here missy.
Mercifully, no one really talks much in Battle: Los Angeles, that aside from cries of enemy locations or spotters picking up on an incoming assault. Limited character development in the opening is mostly tossed to the wayside, the post-traumatic stress syndrome of one certain Marine literally serving zero purpose. That leaves our lead, Staff Sargent Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), an Iraq veteran who lost a squad and is ready for retirement. As it goes in Hollywood, retirement is a surefire way to kill off most of the planet, or whatever locale the story takes place in.
Battle: LA never becomes more than advertised, that of blending Black Hawk Down with alien invasion. Director Johnathan Liebesman tries his best to copy Ridley Scott too, flinging that camera around during hectic action scenes as if he has no control of it. The audience won’t keep control of their lunch either.
The scientists here are confined to TV screens, telling us the aliens are here for our water. That makes sense. They track humankind via our radio frequencies, which also makes some sense. What doesn’t make sense is that the military honestly believes they have air superiority in the beginning. These are aliens. From space. How do you think they got here?
As stated prior, it’s a good thing there’s not much in the way of dialogue. Besides, what it does best is action; frenzied, crazed action with all of the zest we’ve come to expect from summer blockbusters. Battle: LA isn’t attempting to be high art, it uses humor only to diffuse stress, and is sure to remain focused on what everyone came to see. That’s commendable, the junk coming from the house that Michael Bay built almost trying to convince people that’s the best Hollywood can offer. There are no such illusions here. It’s here to blow stuff up with or without the help of a veterinarian.
Battle: LA was shot on film, and if the video quality here is any indication, apparently with varying film stocks. That’s not a knock on quality, just the film grain levels that ebb and flow with the intensity of the action or intended grittiness of the scene. For the most part, this AVC encode is handled beautifully, save for one or two shots where compression can be bothersome. Considering the amount of smoke, camera shaking, and bullet grazing, it’s impressive Sony’s digital effort is able to keep a lid on it all.
When the camera isn’t wildly swinging with no regard for the audience’s churning stomach, facial detail presents itself as a razor sharp element. Texture here is always exceptional (as is sharpness), from the military garb to increasingly dirt-strewn faces of these soldiers in action. Aerials of a devastated Los Angeles are spectacular in their destruction and in this disc’s ability to render those effects without fault.
Gunning for a harsh appearance, Battle: LA ramps up the contrast, creating scorching backdrops and lighting sources. The final shoot-out in broad daylight is harsh and stern, the screen awash with overlit segments that wipe fine detail, although picking up anything of interest in such chaos is nigh impossible anyway. Black levels lose some of their kick within certain interiors, matching up to the desaturated color palette. Other times, they simply appear flat and lacking the punch they need.
Generally, Battle: LA is awash with earthy browns and grays, that is until the garish orange and teal that takes over when they make it back to home base. It’s about 10 or 15 minutes of familiar Hollywood digital intermediate tinkering before we can move back into a look that is familiar, but not overused to the point of nausea. Maybe it’s not just the camera work causing irritation after all.
This is a rockin’ DTS-HD mix, overloaded with sound design upon additional levels of sound design. It’s an audio presentation that is nothing less than completely berserk, alien arm cannons firing off individual rounds that produce more kick than most Earth-based missiles. Humans fight back with beefy grenades, heavy machine gun fire, and totally immersive assault rifles.
Battle: LA hits from every angle, bullet placement precise and utterly involving. Not a single shot seems missed within the chaos, whether they’re coming from aerial support or ground troops fighting their own battles off-screen. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the designers created reasons to insert more gunfire wherever they could. In open air or down contained alleyways, this mix is on top of its potential.
Nothing is skimped, the bass relentless in its subwoofer-based assault throughout, each new battle producing some reason for an explosion that can rock the low-end. Near the finale, you’ll need to start preparing yourself for each thump, because they’re surely not holding back and it’s only about become even stronger.
The pop-up feature here is titled Command and Control, offering storyboards throughout the film as well as 22-minutes of additional video featurettes, thankfully available separately. The rest of the disc is comprised of standard behind-the-scenes snippets, Behind the Battle up first, a promo piece with some usual on-set footage.
Directing the Battle is about director Jonathan Liebesman, how he got the job and his approach. Preparing for Battle details the physicality of the roles, followed up by a lengthy bit on set design, Preparing for Battle. Boot Camp is about the military training, and probably would have been better suited to the prior piece on conditioning. Creating L.A. in LA explains how the production turned Louisiana into Los Angeles. Finally, The Freeway Battle showcases how one of the key action scenes was put together. There’s BD-Live support here too, but nothing of interest to Battle: LA fans.