Battle: Los Angeles

Richard Cartwright /Columbia Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Part sci-fi thriller, part computer game, and part Marine recruiting video. A band of few-and-proud brothers fends off an alien invasion in this ultra-adrenalized Battle, which inspires some shock and awe with CGI effects, but misfires with stock characters and cheesoid dialogue.

The Bigger Picture: Poor La La Land. Frequently decimated by acts of God (2012) and monsters (Dragon Wars), Los Angeles is now under siege by hostile extraterrestrials—the second time in a year (Skyline). But if you're expecting to see iconic Hollywood landmarks blasted to bits, you might be disappointed. This Battle rages mostly along the coast and is told pseudo-documentary style from the perspective of a small platoon.

It's like Cloverfield with grunts.

Mars might need moms, but these E.T.s need water! So they launch a global attack in the guise of meteor showers and wreak havoc with relentless fighters and drone aircraft. Humanity's last line of defense falls to a battalion of Camp Pendleton Marines, including Staff Sergeant Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a weary vet who was right on the brink of retirement, natch.

The troop (Ne-Yo and Ramon Rodriguez among them) has three hours to evacuate civilians from Santa Monica before U.S. air strikes destroy the area. Nantz's fellow combatants—who remain sketchily drawn types—don't trust the guy because his disastrous last mission left several soldiers dead. So you can bet square-jawed Sarge will prove his battle mettle and deliver rah-rah speeches ("Marines don't quit!") before the last alien butt gets kicked.

With production design inspired by (or cribbed from) District 9, this apocalyptic actioner delivers plenty of firepower, explosions, and vistas of bombed-out beaches and high-rises. But the aliens themselves are a letdown, resembling spindly metallic marionettes when not totally obscured by smoke.

If the jittery camerawork, tight close-ups, hyperkinetic editing, and bombastic score don't give you a meteor-sized migraine, the lame dialogue will: "What the hell is that thing?" and "It's like nothing I've ever seen before!" Unfortunately, we've seen and heard all this before.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Gaming junkies will probably dig the immersive experience of running through war-torn buildings and firing at space invaders. Score.

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