Battle of Los Angeles (2011) – Review by Roger Froilan

Once in a while, a little known fact from the past surfaces and sparks people’s imaginations.  The picture from Los Angeles in 1942 of anti-aircraft guns opening fire on a mysterious object is one of those things.  Hundreds of people witnessed this action, and a good portion of California was put on a state of alert with air raid sirens blasting everywhere.  Was it a Japanese plane? A blimp? A squadron?  To this day, the US army has not revealed what really happened.  Therefore, filmmakers find this a good source to build a story from.  If I’m not mistaken, it also partially inspired Spielberg’s film ‘1941’, which was hilarious take on what would happen if the Japanese invaded the US after Pearl Harbor.

Okay, aside from the fact that aliens invade Los Angeles for unknown reasons, and human soldiers battle them for survival, this movie surprisingly has little to do with the recent theatrical blockbuster, ‘Battle: Lost Angeles’, which was also inspired by the below photo entitled ‘Battle for Los Angeles’.

It’s really too bad that Syfy doesn’t make any effort to craft good stories.  They certainly can make movies, but they don’t put enough effort in them to make them better or even great.  Produced by The Asylum, ‘Battle for Los Angeles’ really suffers from this, and it’s too bad because there are so many good elements to the film.  A popcorn potboiler, it definitely makes for a fun evening on a Saturday night with the family, but don’t expect a huge amount of depth to the story or characters.  Not that the depth isn’t there… you’ve got a pilot who’s been grounded for unknown reasons (and thank God, because we need him later in the story), a pilot who is almost too terrified to fly his plane once he sees the invaders coming, a hot Majestic Agent who wears a catsuit and wields a katana, and another pilot who time travelled from the 1940’s to present day, but seems curiously uninterested in this fact.  I wanted to know MORE about these characters, but I’m sure they needed room for commercials, so all expository information was left on the cutting room floor.

The producers should have chosen a different name for the film, even though it’s more closely based on the actual incident, because right away the audience has preconceived notions about it.  I suppose it was an attempt to cash in on the box office champ, but that’s really too bad because the film did have a lot of potential.

‘Battle of Los Angeles’ starts out with a familiar scene: a giant alien mothership hovers over the main skyscrapers of Los Angles.  US warplanes are deployed as the ship starts to lay waste to the city.  The pilots fire missiles, but the missiles are caught by the ship and sent back against the planes.  One of the pilots tries to warn the command center, but of course, they ignore her warnings, telling her to get away because bigger missiles are coming in.  This course of action fails miserably, but the pilot ignores her orders, and vainly tries to stop the missiles that are now being used against us.

Cut to a National Guard base on the outskirts of L.A.  We meet the main characters: hot shot second string pilot Solano, played by Theresa June Tao, who channels her inner Vasquez; Edward DeRuiter plays Armstead, the pilot who practically craps his pants and can’t seem to bring himself to start his plane; and Lt. Tyler Laughlin, played by Kel Mitchell (of ‘Keenan & Kel’ fame), the aforementioned grounded pilot who is not allowed to jump into the fighter planes with the rest of his squadron.  Robert Pike Daniel, who plays Commander Wakes, tries his darndest to channel R. Lee Ermy, but simply doesn’t pull it off, and is the most laughable of the bunch.  The best acting came from Darin Cooper, who plays Captain Hadron, and my favorite character of the film.  I really believed him as the hardnosed military commander, and his good performance speaks for itself.

Once the National Guard base is wiped out, Captain Pete Rodgers arrives from the 1940’s, seemingly unfazed by this fact.   In a cool moment you very rarely see in genre films, Commander Wakes puts the pieces together right away, and totally figures out that Rodgers is from the past, and knows that Rodgers must be delivered to MJ12 (UFO aficionados will remember that the Majestic Agency, in real life, is supposedly the top secret organization begun after the Roswell incident of 1947).  So now, the goal is to get Rodgers to MJ12 and figure out how to beat a seemingly invulnerable enemy that uses our own weapons against us.  Along the way, we meet Karla, played by Nia Peeples, the sword wielding MJ12 expert whose uniqueness adds character to the film.

There are moments, like I mentioned before, where things suddenly don’t make sense: after the survivors encounter Karla and make introductions, a scene later we’ve got two other MJ12 agents with them?  (Huh?  Where’d they come from?).  In a later fight, burning alien goo is splattered on some of the characters and suddenly Karla has to wear an

eye patch (what?  Was she injured?  It didn’t seem it…).  But, this does give her a cool look, reminiscent of DarrylHannah from Kill Bill.  And there’s also a great scene where Solano is injured, arm bleeding, lying on the floor and the characters are just standing there looking at her.  My family and I were screaming at them to help her!

The special effects are surprisingly good, with only a few exceptions.  It looks like they saved the budget for the mothership and alien fighter planes shot (oh, and did I mention there’s a nifty giant monster at one point?  That looked good, too).  But in doing so, some of the matte shots in the middle of the movie suffer as a result, and are painfully obvious.

Battle of Los Angeles doesn’t really rip-off much sci-fi either, although there are some nice nods to ‘War of the Worlds’, ‘Independence Day’, and even ‘Lost in Space’ – when the humans manage to commandeer an alien fighter, it powers up and the sound effect is literally the same sound as the Jupiter 2 from the classic TV series!!

The end result was that I was disappointed, not in the writing, but because I was left wanting more explanations.  I watched it with the wife and kids, and they found it enjoyable and entertaining, so I guess that was Syfy and The Asylum’s goal all along.  Mark Atkins, the writer/director, does a good job of creating an entertaining film that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve seen it all before.  I’d love to see a director’s cut with the expository scenes added back in!

Don’t forget to check out our sister site www.horrorhaven.com and click on the Fright Channel the web’s best 24 hour horror network, see what’s playing

Feedback is always welcomed at roger@horrorhaven.com

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5 Responses to “Battle of Los Angeles (2011) – Review by Roger Froilan”

  1. Mark Atkins Says:

    Roger,

    Thanks for the review. You correctly surmised there were some deleted scenes in “Battle of Los Angeles”. I don’t know if they’ll surface in a future version but they consist of a fair amount of exposition and character intro for the soldiers….In one scene, Commander Wakes reviews everyone’s performance and gives Solano, Laughlin and Arnstead verbal shakedown. It takes place before the main action of the Mothership showing up, hense the deletion.

    • I totally understand having to cut things for commercial/time purposes! I think it’s a good thing that you left me wanting more! Shows the story was really there!

  2. Eugene Williams Says:

    Roger,
    I agree with a lot of your review. Robert Pike Daniel as Wakes was waaaaay over played and didn’t deliver. Though it was so over played it caused a few laughs. Equally over played was Thereasa June Tao as Solano. Don’t get me wrong, she’s hot and some very good moments but generally felt forced like she was trying too hard all of the time. I’d be interested to find out from Atkins if this was the result of performance or direction? I agree Darin Cooper as Hadron was spot on and I wished he would have done the Wakes stuff or just been around longer. He was definitely ONE of the stand out performances of the film. I say ONE of the stand out performances because Gerald Webb as Lt. Newman was the most compelling and believable character in the film. How could you have missed that? he seemed to be the soldier just going about the business of survival while the characters around him posed, postured and “acted”. My girlfriend and I felt a serious energy drop in the film when he died and found our interests slightly waining through the final 1/4 of the film (especially in the humvee sequence). Coincidence maybe but I don’t really think so. My only other character disappointment was the 1942 pilot, Lt. Rogers who seemed more like a prop than a character in the film. I agree the beginning and the ending special effects were impressive but the middle group was VERY soft. Atkins made an enjoyable film and the scenes he says were cut were evident in the multitude of holes left in the storyline.

    In the end I take ALL of this with a grain of salt because we’re talking a TV syfy movie. It wouldn’t feel right if it were cheesy in a bunch of ways. They pulled of being action packed and entertaining making a B classic for the micro budget syfy genre.

    • You’re right, I totally forgot to mention Gerald Webb’s great performance!! I also forgot to mention the clever aspect of using vacume tubes because EMP blasts don’t affect them! My bad.

  3. Usually I don’t learn post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, quite great article.

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