Managing to squeeze in every Marine corps cliche within the first ten minutes, is a fair indication of where this movie wishes to position itself in the marketplace.
We receive the briefest of introductions to each Marine platoon character, before we are dumped fair and square into a battle with Aliens attempting to take over Santa Monica, presumably attempting to corner the real estate market.
Aaron Eckhart plays Marine Staff Sergeant Nantz, a man who has seen it all, lost men under his command and wants out, signing his retirement orders just 24 hours before the crisis begins.
When all hands to the pump are required, he regroups with a platoon, complete with an obligatory rookie Lieutenant and is immediately sent to rescue civilians from a beach side Police station. A self created hard timeline is imposed, with the whole area due to be carpet bombed in a few hours, in an attempt to halt the alien attack.
The film is similar to “Black Hawk Down” with a gritty, first person and very shaky camera style, which does not suit all audiences. The gore factor is relatively low but the “Hoo hah” Marine quotient is off the scale, in places coming across as an extended enrolment promo for the Marine corp.
Esprit de corp in battle is necessary to operate as a cohesive unit but it gets very wearing in a two hour film. Endangering an entire squad to save a few civilians, when thousands are seemingly being systematically wiped out, is also rather dubious. The heavy handed sentimentality and US flag waving is also somewhat hard to stomach for an international audience.
The real and CGI generated effects are good and Eckhart, who we know is an excellent actor, tries to inject some believability into the situation. He surrounded by competent no-name players, almost as if he signed on expecting more support from better known actors only for them to fall through, leaving him rather alone apart from Michelle Rodriguez.
The main flaw would be what’s going on and why?
We get a very brief explanation that maybe aliens need water but all we get to see is an extended macro battlefield with few characters to care about. The lack of a three act structure, the film starting in the middle and remaining there throughout the running time, does little to help.
Whilst there is a brief forward/flashback we get no feel for the invasion as a whole, other than occasional stock footage of aliens flying over recognizable International landmarks, see “Independence Day” and other similar films. The movie seems unsure whether it wants to be a reasonably serious film about an alien attack or an all out “popcorn” alien movie and curiously falls uneasily between both genres.
Not a bad film but not a good one either. Think “Black Hawk Down” “lite” with aliens standing in for Somalians as the seemingly disposable “bad” guys.
Following an exciting trailer and some early “buzz”, mark down as rather disappointing, unless a two hour “shaky-cam” battle with modern weaponry, little plot and weak characterization floats your spaceship.