Battle: Los Angeles is a high-octane sci-fi epic about a group of marines defending LA from invading aliens. But unlike the jokey Independence Day or the possession-themed Skyline, Battle is a much more gritty affair – think Black Hawk Down with aliens instead of Somalis.
So does it work? Well if you like explosions and machine-guns a blazing, or can’t tear yourself away from the latest shoot ’em up game, then you’re going to love this.
As for the aliens, well, director Jonathan Liebsman wanted to create creatures that nobody had ever seen before – and he’s succeeded. The look of the alien foot soldiers were originally conceived by British artist Paul Gerrard (check out his website), whose abstract ideas were crafted into workable designs by effects company Spectral Motion and sculptor Hiroshi Katagiri (he built the cool looking mermaids for the latest Pirates film, On Stranger Tides).
Oscar-winning makeup wizard Joel Harlow, meanwhile, headed the team who turned Spectral Motion’s designs into the eight-foot versions that appear in the film (keen-eye filmgoers can catch Harlow in a cameo in the autopsy scene in which the alien’s biomechanical physiognomy is revealed). Harlow, who is Johnny Depp’s make-up artist of choice (he did the Mad Hatter design for Alice in Wonderland) is now working with the actor on Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.
Along with District 9, Battle: Los Angeles stands out as one of the most unique sci-fi films to come out in a long time. Genre fans might feel cheated by the lack of screen time the aliens get (unlike in District 9), but I think Liebsman has deliberately done this so as not to take your attention away from the real story here – which is about the decisions the group of marines, headed by Aaron Eckhart’s staff sergeant, must make in order to get a group of civilians to safety.
Pete’s Verdict (out of 5): ****
Out now on Blu-ray and DVD