By Dr. Craig D. Reid
February 24, 1942, three months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, it seemed Los Angeles was about to be attacked. Around 2:00 am, February 25, and on into the rest of the night, unidentified hovering objects were reported over Los Angeles, the threat being real enough that air raid sirens droned through the night and a total blackout was ordered. Beginning at 3:16 am and for 58 minutes, the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade fired over 1400, 12.8-pound anti-aircraft shells at the objects as they flew south, from Santa Monica to Long Beach. Many thought it was Japan readying to attack Los Angeles, but as time, lies, conjecture and truth weaved into each other, the most acceptable possibility that was the real Battle of Los Angeles seems to point the finger at are UFOs.
According to the film Battle Los Angeles, five months from today’s date, March 11, 2011, Los Angeles will be reliving the 1942 moment, yet 69 years later there is no mystery. Aliens are coming to Los Angeles, not from the North, South, East or West, but the sky, and their goal is to wipe out the human race, colonize Earth and take over all of our natural resources because apparently those resources are exhausted on their own planet. Are they after oil…nah….diamonds….gold? Water? Bingo, the major resource we often don’t think about until these past 10 years with all the droughts and water rationing, especially in Southern California. Oh, and guess where Battle Los Angeles takes place? No subliminal message there….it should be right in our faces.
So on August 11, 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality. Los Angeles is the last bastion of hope, the last stand for mankind as unknown forces are attacking Earth. Once Atlas had to carry the world on his shoulder and now the task is on the shoulders of Marine First Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) and a handful of marines from the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines – aka the 2/5 – based out of Camp Pendleton, to draw a line in the sands of Santa Monica Beach to face a new enemy, an enemy so deadly that one of the marines says it would be great to be back in Afghanistan.
Of course, the 2/5 is a real battalion – the most highly decorated in the history of the Marine Corps. Their motto is “Retreat, Hell!” – during World War I, when ordered to retreat, the 2/5 responded, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” We here in San Diego should and must know this history.
At the end of the day, I liked this movie. Sure as with any alien invasion film, and you’ve seen them before, we have the cliché plot points such as the aliens totally out gun us, seem indestructible, advance weapons and when all is lost, it’s up to the hero(s) to find that Achilles heal, which incidentally the name derives from a weak point on the body where an enemy could colloquially say, “I kill yee.”
Although not many people know this Achilles yarn, it’s quite clear what director Jonathan Liebesman, director of Battle Los Angeles, was “in-tendon” to accomplish. The movie is not about pulling the wool over our eyes but blasting us with eye-candy, visual FX battle sequences, children in trouble (no dog in there though) and a simple honest story that’s easy to follow and is as predictable as sunny weather at Camp Pendleton during the summer. But in this case that’s not a bad thing, because it’s the journey of the story and how things are resolved that is of interest. I mean, if the twist of the film is that the aliens win, then it is a dumb movie.
More films are shooting their action sequences with earthquake-cam, where the camera operator basically shakes the camera all over the place to create a “realistic” angst to the emotion and intensity of the scene. This is a low-rate way of shooting action scenes in films that feature martial arts action because they’re trying to cover up that the stars know didley squat about close-quarters and hand-to-hand combat, but in Battle Los Angeles, the technique is very effective in giving one the sense that in reality, one never really knows the certainty of what can happen during a combat mission.
And in a sense that also happened during the advanced Battle Los Angeles screening I saw. At the peak of all the blasting, gun fire, lasers, buildings blowing up, limbs and bodies flying all over the place, aliens spewing up the things they spew when humans finally figure out how to kill them…pzzzzzzzzd…the screen goes blank…there’s darkness and silence. A second later, sirens start wailing in the theater and a robotized voice begans blaring to basically get the hell out of here. For a split second, it seemed such an amazing touch to put into the film until we realized that it was a fire alarm, and this was not a drill. The event was double freaky because when I finally got to see 2012, right after the film that huge earthquake out of Mexico shook San Diego for about 30 seconds. Remind me to never watch a film about vampires and werewolves, and then take a short cut home through cemetary after the movie.
I noticed in a few early reviews of the film that several critics chastised the movie saying that it was difficult to figure out the names of the main characters. In as much as that is true, perhaps for real or unintentionally, that’s about the nature of the Marines or any of our armed forces personnel fighting overseas…the average person will never know who they are.
Instead, like these same critics, they’d rather know all about Lindsay Lohan, 24, drug addict in trouble with the law, and especially this past week, what’s going on with Charlie Sheen, who recently proclaimed that he has instantly cured himself from being an alcoholic and a drug addict.
While during this same week, the following marines gave their lives for us: Justin Allen 23; Brett Linley 29; Matthew Weikert 29; Justus Bartett 27; Dave Santos 21; Jesse Reed 26; Matthew Johnson 21; Zachary Fisher 24; Brandon King 23; Christopher Goeke 23; and Sheldon Tate 27. To those nameless critics, are these names clear enough for you?
Semper Fi lads.