Battle: Los Angeles

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Battle: Los Angeles is a science fiction film directed by Jonathan Liebesman. It was released March 11, 2011.

Meteors rain into the ocean a couple of miles off of major coastal cities - one being Los Angeles. Within minutes an alien army marches out of the surf. The suntanning populace on the beach is shredded as the aliens march into the city proper. With the arrival of their aircraft, the aliens quickly establish ground- and air-superiority.

As Los Angeles is evacuated, Marine Staff Sergeant Nantz leads his new platoon and an inexperienced lieutenant against the attackers. Their main goal is to evacuate civilians ahead of a planned bombing offensive, but matters are complicated when they must destroy the enemy's command and control center. Meanwhile, similar battles are waged across the world in other cities.

Not to be confused with the Rage Against the Machine album The Battle of Los Angeles, nor with the similarly-titled direct-to-video Battle of Los Angeles released the same year. However, both films are inspired by the real-life Battle of Los Angeles.

Tropes used in Battle: Los Angeles include:
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Several, but the most notable after they finally arrive at the FOB.
  • Alien Invasion: Of the "All-Out Attack" variety. All major cities near a coast are being attacked.
    • A scientist seen on TV during the movie surmises that the aliens are there to colonize Earth, which explains them shooting anything that moves instead of just concentrating on military targets like they would if they had any other plans.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The aliens open fire on everything -- civilian or otherwise -- and are speculated to be here to steal our water.
  • All There in the Manual: There's a site out there called "unidentified enemy" that details a few things about the aliens, their technology and operations. It can be accessed by visiting the American version of the interactive attacks/sightings map and entering 031111 in the "Restricted Access" field.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The aliens are there to colonize Earth. They need liquid water for their technoloy, and it will take a long time to gather it all.
  • Anachronic Order: Just a little bit, with the initial jittery helicopter flying into combat scene backtracking to the morning before the day of the alien invasion.
  • Anyone Can Die: Not very many of the Marines make it out of Los Angeles. None of the Army personnel that joined up make it out alive. Tech Sergeant Santos, the lone Airman, however, does.
  • Arm Cannon: The aliens have their weapons surgically grafted to their arm.
  • Armor Is Useless: The aliens' weapons consistently go through Marine body armor like it's not even there, being advanced alien technology. Their portable incendiary rocket-grenade launchers also appear to go through the armor on a M1 Abrams tank without much trouble.
  • Attack Drone: The aliens make use of "Wedge Ships" that can combine to form Flying Saucers.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Marines use an LAV to get from the Santa Monica Airport to the extraction point. Though the .50 cal is used, we sadly don't get to see the Bushmaster in action.
  • Backed by the Pentagon
  • Badass Bystander: Mr. Rincon, who grabs a rifle and kills an ambushing alien without hesitation and gets mortally wounded in the process.
  • Badass Spaniard: Santos, Martinez, and even Mr. Rincon (see above).
  • Bayonet Ya: At one point, the protagonists fight the aliens hand to hand with bayonets mounted on their rifles.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the tide seems to be turning against the aliens, but millions of people -- if not more -- are still dead worldwide, and numerous cities have been completely destroyed. And the Los Angeles command ship may have been destroyed, but there's one in every major coastal city and there's no word on the two attacking the East Coast, or the rest of the world. The humans have won the battle, not the war. Not to mention that the aliens will defend their centers even more viciously...
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The invaders look humanoid, but they seem aquatic at the same time, and their bodies seem to be held up and shaped by some form of cybernetic endoskeleton, with weird turbines. They have no real brain as humans understand them (the head area seems to contain no vital organs) and the only way to kill them beyond using massive force to blow them apart is to target a orb-like organ/machine part located to the immediate left of where the heart would be on a human.
  • Black Dude Dies First: There are three black protagonists, and they're all still alive at the end. The few that do die do so in extremely quick fashions, one on the helicopter that gets taken down, the other smooshed by a car.
  • Blown Across the Room: More understated than most examples, but the aliens' weapons consistently hit with enough force to knock humans over. Glancing hits consistently knock Marines off their feet unless the shot goes completely through their bodies.
  • Book Ends: The overhead shot early in the movie overlooking Los Angeles before LA gets pummeled to the ground is reshot in the end when marine reinforcements fly in a battle-torn LA ready to retake the city.
  • Boss Battle: The final battle of the film with the command center is similar, with the boss having to be badly wounded before unleashing its final form while sacrificing drones so that the Boss won't get hit.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted -- the chaingun is explicitly stated to only have 250 rounds before they even use it, and one of the soldiers mentions being low on ammo. The humans also frequently have to throw magazines to each other. Unlike the aliens, the humans avoid More Dakka.
  • California Doubling: Ironically, most of it was filmed in Louisiana.

"In the words of our production designer, 'A palm tree and a telephone pole go a long way'"

  • Car Fu: Aliens, meet a Marine LAV armed with a Bushmaster and a hell of a lot of momentum.
    • The aliens do it effectively during a battle on a freeway, sending rockets to make cars smash some unfortunate Marines.
  • Cat Scare: The first firefight begins with a dog...
    • Shortly afterward, the dryer going off right behind Lenihan.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Nantz has to deal with the guilt and memory of several Marines he led to their deaths in Iraq before the alien invasion. Martinez has to deal with the stress of this being his first combat deployment, particularly when the casevac helicopter carrying four of his wounded Marines is shot down.
  • Combining Mecha: The aliens have wedge-shaped hovering gunships which can link up to form roughly saucer-shaped aerial battle platforms.
  • Cool Old Guy: Staff Sergeant Nantz. 20 long years in the Corps, and the first scene we see him in plays up him starting to slow down compared to the young guys. Once the aliens land in downtown LA, he turns into a Sergeant Rock.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The initial alien attack only becomes a curb stomp once the Attack Drones show up and steal air superiority from the humans. At the end of the movie, after Nantz's team takes out the drone control center, the battle turns in humanity's favor.
  • The Dead Have Names: Nantz was responsible for the deaths of four marines in Iraq, one of whom was the brother of one of the men under his command. At one of the most quiet and dramatic moments in the movie, he lists off the names, ranks, and serial numbers of each of those men, showing that their deaths still haunt him.
  • Dead Line News: A journalist covering the aliens' landing is the unfortunate victim of the first rocket barrage along with her cameraman.
  • Death by Sex: Lampshaded as one of the Marines is stated to be a virgin. After he survives a firefight his squadmates remark:

"I told you, until we get him some tail, he ain't never gonna die!"

    • And then averted; he dies on the evac helo.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: A less typical example, where a couple of Marines are shown partying, getting way too drunk and otherwise playing the trope straight, others are picking out flowers for their wedding, trying to retire with some dignity, or having a quiet goodbye with a loved one at their grave.
  • Dueling Movies: With Skyline. There was a lawsuit over it and everything, primarily due to the same special effects guys doing work on Skyline while this movie was in postproduction.
  • Ensign Newbie: Lieutenant Martinez has just graduated from Officer Training. In his first engagement he freezes up, unable to act, and when the casevac helicopter is shot down he goes into a Heroic BSOD. It isn't until Nantz delivers a sharp, confidence-boosting lecture to him that he shapes up. By the time of the highway battle, he's confidently giving orders and deploying his men.
  • Every Bullet Is a Tracer: For the aliens, anyway, since their guns fire incendiaries.
  • Face Full of Alien Wingwong: While not a reproductive example, Elena Santos gets a faceful of alien guts - even in her mouth, causing the Marine riding shotgun to joke about "getting a faceful on the first date".
  • Fast Roping: Notably, two children have to do it in order to escape a slowly approaching walking tank.
    • Two of the Marines spotting from the top of a building employ this to get to an evacuation vehicle fast.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The aliens have a minor example of this, with several different biological variations on their soldiers depending on roles. You've got your basic soldiers, very tall, floating, and gangly leaders, and smaller troops dedicated to operating support weapons and scouting.
  • A Father to His Men: Sgt. Nantz strives to be one. A few of his men aren't so sure, especially since there's been rumors that he purposefully got his entire team killed in Iraq.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If one looks closely during the scene where Lenihan is shooting the alien emerging from the pool, one of his shots hits the alien's Arm Cannon, causing it to spark and malfunction. When the alien emerges from the pool again, it appears to actually fire its gun right at Nantz, but the weapon misfires, throwing up a cloud of blink-and-you'll-miss-it sparks.
    • During a CNN broadcast, we see that even in the midst of an alien invasion the network still bothers to include the Dow Jones Industrial Average in their graphics. Not surprisingly, it's taken a bit of a hit.
  • Glass Cannon/Fragile Speedster: The Drones are easily taken out, but the tie-in website states they can go Mach 7 - far faster than human jets - and they pack a punch. They can join up to form some sort of hovering weapons platform, which makes them a bit less vulnerable.
  • Government Conspiracy: Hinted at. The tie-in website and trailers indicate that the government has some prior knowledge dating all the way back from World War Two (though far too little) about the aliens. Tech Sergeant Santos' original mission to find an enemy C&C asset and knowledge of the alien drones is another indicator.
  • Heroic BSOD: A couple of the Marines, particularly Martinez, have these when the aliens bring their drones into the fray.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After being wounded during the shootout on the freeway, Lieutenant Martinez crawls into a bus and detonates a bag of C4, taking out a group of aliens and their Walking Tank in the process.
    • Hector's father takes a bullet to the gut after picking up an M16 to kill an alien trying to surprise the Marines rappelling down a child to safety.
  • Hopeless War: The war against the aliens appears to be this way when they quickly gain air superiority and make massive headway in tearing Los Angeles apart.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Experts being interviewed during some news transmission surmise that the aliens are here to steal our resources due to their tactics (complete eradication instead of a proper occupation). Indeed, the water level drops half-way through the film.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted. The marines use real tactics. Notably, the alien soldiers also act like, well, soldiers, and use tactics as well, such as Hand Signals. It's also subverted and invoked in the beginning - the aliens initially have no air support and the US military attempts to exploit this by arranging for a carpet bombing of the coastal neighborhoods of LA. This plan changes once the aliens get their drones in the air.
    • The aliens also appear to take out all human anti-aircraft weapons, since none of the ones firing at the beginning of the invasion are firing on the drones.
    • The Sea Knights fly down along the beach toward the FOB because artillery is being fired into the urban areas in Santa Monica. Helicopters in general are routed around areas where artillery is being fired to avoid being hit by airborne shells.
    • The plan to carpet-bomb Santa Monica is actually based on real-life emergency plans in case of a West Coast invasion of LA.
  • Hope Spot: In the middle of the highway battle, Lockett takes control of a .50 caliber machinegun in an abandoned Humvee and uses that to blow up the alien troops on the upper highway that have been shooting up the rest of the squad. Enemy fire drops off, and the Marines start cheering. Then the Walking Tank shows up.
  • Hover Tank: One makes a brief appearance in the end before getting blown up.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Despite the major physiological differences between the alien invaders and humans (see Starfish Aliens, below), their body plans are still basically human-like, with two arms, two legs, an upright torso, a chest with a heart in it, and a head on top where the ranged sensory organs are located. The fact that Sergeant Nantz could say that their Achilles' Heel is "to the left of where the heart would be" says as much about their general similarities to us than their specific differences.
  • Improvised Weapon: Lacking in any real anti-air capability, Nantz has to take out an alien drone by luring it to a gas station and blowing it up, taking the drone with it.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight - on-screen, at least.
  • Inferred Holocaust: The aliens are launching a worldwide invasion of every major coastal city, and they shoot to kill indiscriminately.
    • Actual Holocaust in the film. Dead civilians are literally everywhere.
    • Those mushroom cloud-shaped explosions seen early on in the initial flyover of LA? Those are gas stations being lit on fire, likely wiping out entire city blocks.
    • The aliens have 30 million troops, the largest army on earth, the People's Liberation Army only has 4.5 million, and half of them are reserves. Victory is far from assured, and even if humanity wins, it's going to make World War II look like a hostage crisis.
  • It's Raining Aliens: The aliens and their equipment land just offshore after an atmospheric insertion in giant asteroid-like ships.
  • Kill All Humans: The aliens take no prisoners and leave no survivors, although killing all humans isn't an end unto itself - they are slaughtering us because we are keeping them from grabbing some resources.
  • Kill It with Fire: The aliens favor incendiary rounds in their weapons, and one can see blackened burns on every Marine who gets wounded. Their flying saucers also like to take massive incendiary grenade/rocket launchers and sweep them over neighborhoods.
  • The Load: The civilians that the Marines are sent in to evacuate. Unlike most examples, they generally avoid getting in the way, and the two adults try to help as best they can. One of them is a veterinarian and helps dissect the wounded alien in the police station, and the other helps in combat by dragging the wounded to safety, at one point picking up a dropped assault rifle and shooting one of the aliens.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Walking Guns fire missile-like plasma projectiles in swarms that occasionally home in, to devastating effect.
  • Manly Tears: When Nantz recites the names of the men who died under his command and ends with Lockett's brother, Lockett starts weeping.
  • Monster Delay: It's a while before we ever get a clear look at any of the alien beings, and even when we do, the camera does everything it can to avoid lingering on them.
  • The Mothership: Each city being attacked has one massive Command and Control center that commands all the drones.
  • Mood Dissonance: Leading up to the character squad's first encounter. There's smoke from weapons fire, abandoned cars, charred corpses, the sounds of distant explosions, not a living being in sight. The squad hears something, gets to cover with weapons trained on the direction the sound comes from, waiting for an alien to pop out of the smoke...And up runs someone's pet dog. Cue about half a minute of relieved comments, relaxing, joking about the dog's name (Glenn), soundtrack's calmed down, viewers think it'll be another five or ten minutes of walking to the fight, maybe with an animal sidekick... Explosions, shots raining down from multiple rooftops as well as the direction the dog ran in from, dramatic music and screaming both start up, and one of the Marines gets dragged off into the scenery.
  • More Dakka: If it doesn't have six barrels and can't shoot missiles, it's probably not in the alien armory.
  • My Greatest Failure: Nantz is still haunted by the loss of his entire squad during a botched mission in Iraq.
  • Not So Different: Discussed in-universe when some Marines spot an alien commander spotting for two alien snipers on top of a roof. One surmises they may be just like them -- grunts with families and a home who no idea what's really happening and just get told to go fight.
    • Displayed as well -- several scenes show downed enemy aliens being dragged away back into cover by their squadmates, with the others providing covering fire. Just like what human soldiers do. The directors made it a big deal that the aliens used human tactics.
    • A subtle case of this pops up when the scientist discusses how the aliens are using "colonization" tactics on humanity. Though not outright stated, there's an implication that we know the aliens are using colonization tactics because mankind used them too.
  • Not So Stoic: Nantz's controlled demeanor cracks three times. The first is when he blows up the drone in the gas station, where his fingers tremble uncontrollably afterward. The second is when Martinez is about to blow himself up, where he flips out and starts screaming at him that he won't let more people die again like he did back in Iraq. The third time is when he confronts Lockett and explains to him that he memorized the names and numbers of every man who died under his command.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: By a veterinarian who helped them find the right spot to shoot the aliens, and in the process averting Open-Heart Dentistry.

Michele: You should have someone look at that
Nantz: I thought you were a doctor.
Michele: Animals and aliens only.

  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: The sequence where Nantz stabs, cuts, and tears at a still-living alien to figure out where to hit it to kill it. Unlike most such scenes, there's no accompanying moral commentary on the action; the viewer is left to decide themselves between whether or not Nantz's are cruel or justified.
    • It's an interesting case, given that Nantz actually is trying to kill the alien efficiently without torturing him first; it just takes him awhile to figure out how to do that, exactly.
  • Open-Heart Dentistry: Averted. See Not That Kind of Doctor.
  • Planet Looters: Seems like the aliens are out of water.
  • Point of View: The movie only follows the Marines. We get glimpses of what else is happening to the world, but the movie is merely concerned with this specific group.
  • Precision F-Strike: Nantz: "Let's show these bastards who they're fuckin' with."
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: The above mentioned Precision F-Strike is delivered just before the final assault on the drone control center.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Not quite one line, but Martinez's last bit of dialogue before his Heroic Sacrifice still qualifies:

"This is Second Lieutenant William Martinez, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. Ooh-Ra!"

  • Product Placement: Being funded by Sony, the film features a number of Sony products, such as Marines using Sony laptops, and a billboard advertising Resistance 3.
    • The squad passes by a RE/MAX real estate office before they get to the police station.
    • There's a pristine Pepsi Max sign that can be seen in the background around that time as well.
    • The drop-off point where the street-by-street deployments are laid out is in a Domino's Pizza shop.
  • Radio Silence: The Marines have to turn off their radios once they realize that even making a short transmission allows enemy drones to home in on their position.
  • Rasputinian Death: This happens twice; the first alien soldier to be successfully shot down rises back up a minute or two later, only to be shot down by the whole squad again and a grenade dumped on it just to be sure. The second time is when they're forcibly vivisecting a wounded alien to try to figure out what part of it they have to shoot to make sure it stays dead.
    • The first instance is lampshaded by a delirious Lenihan.

"It's not dead. They don't die. I've hit it a hundred times. They don't die!"

  • Reconstruction: The movie takes many of the old cliches of war movies: the old Sergeant Rock who is just about to retire, the New Meat lieutenant, the scared private, The Ladette, and so on, and makes them work.
  • Recycled in Space: It's Black Hawk Down... with ALIENS!
  • Retirony: Nantz is two days from retiring from the Marines when the movie starts. Subverted, in that he survives the events of the movie and goes right back into the war without hesitation at the end. In fact, it's precisely because he's about to retire that he is able to cope with the deaths of others and adapt quickly, whereas the younger troops aren't ready for so gruesome a battle.
  • Rousing Speech: Nantz gives one to his remaining soldiers at the FOB before their last attempt to escape the city.
  • Scenery Gorn: All over the place... especially the opening.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Thoroughly averted. According to the tie-in website, the aliens are bringing a massive invasion force numbering well in excess of thirty million soldiers.
  • Semper Fi: The main characters are Marines, which makes sense since Camp Pendleton, one of the main USMC bases, is less than 100 miles away from the city and the aliens are apparently aquatic in nature; troops trained in amphibious operations are the logical soldiers to use on them.
  • Sequel Hook: The humans may have won the battle in Los Angeles, but not the war. There are still at least 11 other cities getting attacked.
    • The international release title was "World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles", one city down...
  • Sergeant Rock: Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz.
  • Shown Their Work: The tactics used by both the Marines and the alien invaders are actually quite competent, and this shows. The invaders use realistic tactics like area-denial barrages with artillery, and set up a highly-effective ambush by herding the Marines into a boxed-in position between houses where they fire on the human troops from the rooftops, using hand-signals and suppressive fire.
    • When the aliens emerge from the water, they do so in a loose, staggered formation, with what looks to be a five-meter spread. This is pretty much the best way move from deep water to land on foot while potentially coming under fire, as being that spread out limits the effectiveness of grenades and artillery.
    • Tech Sergeant Santos is from an Air Force Wing near Los Angeles, the soldiers are from a National Guard infantry division with many units in California.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Martinez's wife is shown to be pregnant at the beginning of the movie. He dies.
  • Starfish Aliens: The aliens have a very curious biology, with the majority of their vitals concentrated at an unusual part of their body (right of where their heart would be located) and make heavy use of cybernetics. The odd biology makes it difficult for the Marines to hurt them until they figure out where to shoot.
    • If one looks closely at the wounded alien that is being "dissected" one can see that one of its legs is clearly damaged, and a long, rope-like tendril is extending from the creature's body. The same leg is missing the metallic/ceramic "skeleton" structures that the aliens' bio matter seems to be wrapped around, indicating that the aliens' limbs may be far longer than we're led to believe, and their bodies are held in a humanoid shape by all the machinery so they can effectively fight on land. "Doc" also digs around in the "head" area of the alien, and finds that there's nothing in there even vaguely resembling a brain; at one point Nantz even shoots the same alien in the "head" area and it has no visible effect on the creature.
  • The Stoic: Nantz's emotions are generally muted; he has a job to do and rarely lets his personal feelings out. Santos even says that he reminds her of her brother, because "He never smiles either."
  • Surprisingly-Sudden Death: The aliens' tendency towards water allows them to launch deadly surprise attacks from unexpected directions. One tries it early on in the film, only to get shot up... twice.
  • That's an Order: When Nantz refuses to leave Martinez behind so he can perform his Heroic Sacrifice, Martinez tells him to get a note to his wife, and ends what he has to say with this. After which, Nantz reluctantly complies.
  • Time to Step Up Commander: Twice.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: In the early parts of the movie, the military believes that the enemy is exclusively ground-based. However, anyone who saw the trailer before coming to see the movie (which is probably everyone), was already well-aware that this belief was going to change in short order. On the other hand, it probably wasn't a major twist as the alien aircraft were shown in the first few seconds of the movie.
    • Also, when the helicopter near the police station is lifting off, everyone who's seen the trailer knows it's about to explode.
    • A big part of the trailer is the large "something" coming up from underground, along with it being on the movie posters. When they blast the top antenna-thing on the command center, you know it's going to rise up soon.
  • Urban Warfare: As most of the scenes take place in Los Angeles, this is to be expected.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Surprisingly, Michelle Rodriguez lives through this one.
  • Walking Tank: The aliens have a 7-foot tall walking gun that fires missiles. A lot of them. In clusters. Things explode. A lot.
  • Weather of War: The movie begins in a crowded urban area choked by smoke and fog, the worst possible condition for fighting short of everything being on fire. It works both ways for both sides.
  • Wham! Line: For the Marines, while getting briefed.

"These objects are not falling at terminal velocity. They are slowing down."

  • World of Cardboard Speech: Nantz delivers a powerful one to the remaining Marines under his command when they begin to doubt whether he cares about their safety and survival.
  • X Meets Y: Black Hawk Downs gritty cinematography meets Independence Days plot. Massive forces hovering over major cities? Check. Alien locusts who want out natural resources? Check. Unlikely hero finds and exploits aliens' achilles heel? Check.
  • Yanks With Tanks: It's a war movie taking place in Los Angeles. You didn't think it'd star Brits With Battleships, did you?
    • Literally, when the Marines run into a friendly tank platoon. The platoon accompanying it gets massacred, and the Abrams is disabled soon afterwards.
    • They're trying to avert it by stretching the title to "World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles" for the international market.
    • Also notable for featuring every branch of the US Armed Forces; even the Coast Guard makes an appearance, however briefly.