battle_los_angeles_mr_web.jpgSummer 2011 is shaping up to be a big summer for moviegoers.  After all, the film industry owes us after the lackluster offerings from summer, fall, and winter 2010.  With such upcoming films like X-Men, Thor, Jumping the Broom, and Fast Five, I expect to enjoy my critiquing job very much in the coming months.

In the meantime, to get a taste of what 2011 has to offer as a whole, take a look at a disaster film that combines the elements of Terminator: Rise of the Machines, Avatar, and Independence Day, with some interesting looking aliens.

Battle: Los Angeles is about aliens from some planet who land on earth to exterminate the humans, in order to gain control of one of its precious natural resources.  You’ll have to watch the film to see what those resources are.  Just when I thought this disaster flick was going to be typical, it and its writer (Christopher Bertolini) and director (Jonathan Liebesman) proved otherwise.

“It was Jonathan’s short and his statues of the aliens and his perception of how he wanted the movie to be shot,” Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Elena Santos, said about deciding to do the film.  “Usually with a film like this, you could go the whole epic route and just blow up everything that’s monumental and call it a movie.  But, Jonathan wanted it to be an intimate experience between you and the chaos.”

Taking the audience through one platoon’s journey to stop the aliens from gaining control of their region of Los Angeles, Bertolini explores how Marines think and act.  This dichotomy gives the film a more serious and real vibe.  There is no Will Smith in Independence Day in this film; just men and women risking their lives and riding in to save the day.

Although the military plays a huge role in this film, Bertolini made sure to include some civilians; two adults and three kids to be exact.   One of those civilians, Joe Rincon, played by Michael Pena, plays a significant role in the action.

“Instead of just being in the background the entire time, I actually have some moments within this whole thing, like father/son moments,” said Pena about his character.  “It was really rewarding.  To have any kind of moment is kind of interesting.  It doesn’t happen very much.”

Indeed, there are heartfelt moments in the film that break up all of the shooting and explosions that are typical in an action film.  Is the emotion worth mentioning?  Not so much.  But, it’s nice that it’s there.

Battle  also stars Cory Hardrict as Cpl. Jason Lockett, who has an emotional tie to SSgt. Nantz, and R & B singer Ne-Yo continues to build on his acting career as Cpl. Kevin Harris, who is getting married to the love of his life (if only he can stop those pesky aliens.),  Adetokumboh M'Cormack plays Corpsman Jibril Adukwu, the resident doctor and go to guy for his intelligence.

It appears that Liebesman’s vision for Battle is what attracted most of its stars to this film.  Not only did his vision include the octopus-looking aliens with smart machines infused in their bones,  Liebesman also shows the parallel between the opposing sides: both sides acted as a unit and answered to a central command.  That type of forward thinking isn’t always seen in an action film, which can be counted on to use base plots and emotions to counteract all of the violence.

“I thought it would be an interesting journey if (Martinez) starts really, really confident and sure of himself and wants action and wants to get in there and, if you’re going to do that, of course, for me, you have to show the opposite,” said Ramon Rodriguez, who plays 2nd Lt. William Martinez.  “I didn’t want people to hate him.  It was really important for me, so when that redeeming moment comes, people hopefully care.”

Rodriguez, who is starring in the new television reboot of ABC’s Charlie’s Angels as Bosley, made sure to bring some pathos to this obvious guy film.  He uses his facial expressions and head movements to convey the internal battle that is brewing between himself and Aaron Eckhart’s SSgt. Michael Nantz. It’s a classic case of student turning on master, then realizing that master has all the wisdom.  It’s a nice juxtaposition.

Despite my girlie sensibilities and overall squeamishness for digging into the cavities of living things, I actually liked Battle: Los Angeles.  There isn’t the gratuitous sex or misogyny found in most guy films.  It’s just a film about teamwork and what it means to band together and fight for a cause.  Good job Hollywood.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at