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Film / Battle: Los Angeles

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"There are massive casualties in New York, defensive lines are being setup in Boston, and at 13:15 Zulu Time we lost communications with San Francisco and San Diego, their status is unknown. What we do know is that we are the last offensive force on the west coast. We can not lose Los Angeles."'

Battle: Los Angeles is a science fiction film about Alien Invasion 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 (Aaron Eckhart) 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.

A tie-in game of the same name was published by Konami on March 2011.

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.

Battle: Los Angeles provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Several, but the most notable after they finally arrive at the FOB.
  • Action Girl: Tech Sergeant Santos.
    Santos: All due respect, Staff Sergeant, I didn't get this far based on my good looks.
  • The Alcoholic: Lenihan drinks five beers in a row during the party.
  • 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.
  • Alien Blood: The aliens have translucent yellow blood.
  • 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 technology, 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. However, there are occasions where a marine's armor/helmet protects them from a glancing blow that might otherwise have been lethal.
  • Artistic License – Military: For a movie that is often held up as an example of a realistic portrait of the Marine Corps, it gets several things wrong.
    • Everyone pronounces the acronym for forward operating base (FOB) as "eff-oh-bee," rather than "fob," a mistake that would get them relentlessly mocked in real life.
    • The film portrays laser target designators as emitting a visible beam of light, which is not accurate, as they use coded infrared beams to specifically avoid being spotted with the naked eye, only letting the observer know that the laser is on by displaying an icon in the viewfinder. This would have prevented SSgt Nantz from aiming it as he does, simply holding the device at hip level and hip firing it.
    • The film portrays the Copperhead rounds as slow-moving cruise missiles, when in reality they were Cannon Lauched Guided Projectile Artillery Rounds that would fly over the target at incredible speed, engage thrusters, and come around the opposite side of the target to avoid cluing in the enemy as to where the round came from. Even in the round's "Glide Mode" it was still much faster than the way the film portrays.
  • Attack Drone: The aliens make use of unmanned "Wedge Ships" that, according to the tie-in website, can go Mach 7 (which explains why aliens get air superiority easily) and can combine to form Flying Saucers, which are essentially bombers/gunships that pack more firepower to pound the ground.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The aliens' only obviously-vital organ is some sort of water sac to the left of where the heart would be on a human. Nothing else, headshots included, is instantly fatal, and they will often shrug off bullet wounds, though they obviously feel pain. Grenades do the trick in a pinch.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Marines use an LAV-25 to get from the Santa Monica Airport to the extraction point. Though the .50 cal is used, we sadly don't get to see its Bushmaster chain gun in action.
  • Badass Bystander: Mr. Rincon, who grabs a rifle and kills an ambushing alien without hesitation and gets mortally wounded in the process.
  • Battle Cry: "Retreat, Hell!" Which is the real life motto of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. Nantz even explains to Michele the origins of the motto, in which Major Lloyd W. Williams was ordered to retreat, only to respond, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!"
  • Bayonet Ya: At one point, the protagonists fight the aliens hand-to-hand with bayonets mounted on their rifles. Which is to say they stab multiple bayonets into one alien, then fire full auto. Then kick it. Then shoot it some more.
  • Bigger Stick: The aliens' main advantage. Their UCAV can go mach 7, which completely destroys any air superiority the Americans had, and can serve as extremely deadly bombing platforms that, when linked up, can take a lot of damage. It takes a barrage of fire to kill alien infantry (though, much like human infantry, they do have a weak spot — and even that is guarded), while they have guns that easily shred through body armor and cause a great deal of internal damage, as well as mobile turets and hover tanks.
  • 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 more in other major coastal cities where the invaders are establishing beachheads 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 vaguely humanoid, but they have cetaceous forms, and their bodies seem to be held up and shaped by some form of cybernetic endoskeleton, with weird turbines and other implants. They have no real brain as humans understand them (the head area seems to contain no vital organs) and the only way to quickly 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. That being said, their psychology is very human, something which humanity takes disquieting note of.
  • 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 Marines mentions being low on ammo. The humans also frequently have to throw magazines to each other. Unlike the aliens, the humans avoid More Dakka.
  • Blood Knight: Kerns is eager to get back into combat, though it's clear that he has PTSD.
  • 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 and National Guard soldiers.
  • Cat Scare:
    • The first firefight begins with a dog walking by.
    • 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 in Los Angeles turns in humanity's favor. It's also implied that LA is one of the few areas on the planet that humanity is actually holding out against the invaders, as the aliens are shown to have taken control of several other cities around the globe, including Paris, which is a couple of hundred miles/kilometers inland from the coastline.
  • Darkest Hour: The FOB has been wiped off of the map, and a helicopter pilot picks up Nantz's squad and tells him that the military is abandoning the city.
  • 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.
  • Deadline News: A journalist and cameraman covering the aliens' landing are the unfortunate victims of the first rocket barrage.
  • Death from Above: The USAF's original plan to stop the invasion; keep the aliens contained on the Santa Monica shoreline and carpet bomb them. It doesn't work, and the air strike never happens. Whether the B-52s were shot down or if the Air Force chose not to risk them in the face of the aliens' air superiority is momentarily speculated upon.
    • The aliens prove to be much better at this than humans; not only did they come down from the sky in large meteor-like landing craft, but they use very versatile 'Wedge Ship' UCAVs to quickly establish air superiority over LA. The wedges can even combine into a flying-saucer like floating siege platform that can rain incendiary munitions down like artillery.
  • 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. Even the undeveloped ones have nicknames and background banter that keep them from being too flat.
  • Doomed Hurt Guy: All of the squad members injured in the first act are loaded onto an evac helicopter which is promptly shot down by an enemy ship.
  • EMP: The alien command center uses such a massive amount of radio communication that it blacks out a huge area around it, and almost takes out the evac chopper Nantz and his remaining crew are using to escape.
  • Ensign Newbie: Second Lieutenant Martinez has just graduated from Officer Training, but is a smart leader who has his platoon's respect. 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, who has no shortage of combat experience, delivers a sharp, confidence-boosting lecture to him away from the others that he shapes up. By the time of the highway battle, he's confidently giving orders and deploying his men.
    • Lenihan also gives off this vibe, though he proves to be awfully competent in combat.
  • Expy: Simmons has more than a few similar qualities to Hudson, both of whom are overconfident marines who, after their squad is attacked by a hostile alien race, freaks out and goes into hysterics.
  • Every Bullet is a Tracer: For the aliens, anyway, since their guns either fire incendiary rounds, or are energy bolts.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The team finally reaches the Santa Monica FOB, and finds nothing but wreckage and dead bodies.
  • Eye Scream: Guerrero is blinded after being blasted in the face by one of the aliens' guns.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: While not a reproductive example, T/SGT Elena Santos gets a faceful of alien guts — even in her mouth—from shooting one point-blank, causing the Marine riding shotgun to joke, "You let him do you on a first date."
  • Fast-Roping:
    • Notably, two children have to do it in order to escape a slowly approaching walking tank destroying everything on a Highway overpass.
    • Two of the Marines spotting from the top of a building employ this to get to an evacuation vehicle fast.
    • Nantz and the others do this to infiltrate the area where the alien command center is, since the electrical interference makes it too risky to land the chopper.
      • It was actually a question of fuel - if chopper had landed, it would not have had enough fuel to take off.
  • 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.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Nantz and Lockett are this by the final battle, after Lockett gives up his Jerkass behaviour towards Nantz in the face of his clear Survivor Guilt and Nantz's clear respect for Lockett's deceased brother, one of the men who died under his command in Iraq.
  • Freak Out: Simmons after the first firefight with the aliens.
  • 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.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Drones are easily taken out, but the tie-in website states they can go Mach 7, far faster than human jets.
  • Glass Cannon: The Drones are easily taken out, but they pack a punch.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Once the aliens invade, it's decided pretty much right off the bat to evacuate the civilians then bomb the coastal cities being invaded. The aliens thwart this by establishing air superiority.
  • 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 II (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.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Nantz has a very bad reputation after his tour in Iraq. Even though his orders and actions throughout the invasion are mostly sound, the marines all seem to hate his guts. It's only at the climax after his Rousing Speech that the team finally comes together and trusts his leadership.
  • Heroic BSoD: A couple of the Marines, particularly LT Martinez, have these when the aliens bring their drones into the fray. Martinez's is compounded by his feeling of having failed his men, though a private pep talk from Nantz snaps him out of it.
  • 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 Motorola's M16 to kill an alien trying to surprise the Marines rappelling down a child to safety.
  • Hidden Depths: Lenihan comes off as a fresh-faced rookie, but he's an expert marksman and is the first to injure an alien.
  • 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 (namely, water) 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. 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.
    • Notably, the alien soldiers also act like, well, soldiers, and use tactics as well, such as Hand Signals. 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 CH-46 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. This also conveniently justifies a Scenery Gorn scene as the Marines are flown in.
    • Zigzagged with the plan to bomb Santa Monica: while it's based on real-life emergency plans in case of a West Coast invasion of LA, modern air theory and experiences have led to the conclusion that carpet bombing is inefficient and not cost-effective for the amount of effort and munitions expended. On the other hand, the movie is ambiguous on what they're going to use; it could be a carpet-bombing or it could be simply very free use of regular munitions or even tactical nuclear strikes. All that's said is that the Air Force is going to bomb everything within Santa Monica to oblivion.
  • Hope Spot: In the middle of the highway battle, Lockett takes control of a .50 caliber machine gun 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 platoon. 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. Since it appears to mount only antipersonnel weapons, it's probably more of a Hover Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
  • 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 (or something important, at least) 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.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Lance Corporal Lee Imlay. Lt. Martinez even singles him out as the squad's best marksman when briefing Nantz before their deployment.
  • Improvised Weapon: Lacking in any real anti-air capability, Nantz has to take out an alien drone by luring it to a gas station by a walkie-talkie and blowing it up, taking the drone with it.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Back at base, Lenihan questions why the rest of the squad are unhappy about Nantz being assigned to them given his stellar combat record, prompting Lockett to react angrily and storm off, forcing Imlay to explain one of the men killed under Nantz's command in Iraq was Lockett's brother. Cue an Oh, Crap! reaction for Lenihan.
  • Inscrutable Aliens: The aliens don't make any attempt at contact before they crash in and start killing people. It's heavily implied they're doing this because they just want to colonize Earth for themselves.
  • Invaded States of America: American is one of 20 countries under attack by the aliens. At the start of the movie New York City has fallen, Boston and Los Angeles are under siege, and San Francisco and San Diego are presumed lost as well.
  • It's Raining Men: The aliens and their equipment land just offshore after an atmospheric insertion in giant asteroid-like ships.
  • Jerkass: Pretty much every Marine that insults Nantz for his Once Done, Never Forgotten moment in Iraq. They seem to assume that he willingly got his whole squad killed.
  • Jitter Cam: Present, but nowhere as jittery as most modern examples.
  • Keystone Army: The alien drone ships are all controlled by a single Command and Control Center. Once Nantz and his surviving squad take it out with guided cruise missiles, all of the drones shut down and fall from the sky, giving the Americans control of the air once again, and presumably reducing the invaders' ability to coordinate ground forces as well.
  • 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, and their walking tank fires what's essentially a big exploding ball of flame.
  • Lead the Target: Blink and you'll miss it, but in one scene, Santos does this against one of the drones with an unguided single-shot rocket launcher. You can see her targeting the drone, but then she aims in front of it and intercepts it midflight.
  • 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 clustered 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.
  • Mars Needs Water: The alien invaders are sucking up the oceans.
  • Mauve Shirt: Even a lot of the named Marines get killed.
  • The Medic: Doc, though he's quick to specify he is not a medic, but a Navy corpsman.
  • 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... And then the silence is broken by a screeching alien battle cry and enemy troops opening fire. 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.
  • Nice Guy: Doc.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Nantz invokes this in refusing to abandon the mortally wounded Lieutenant Martinez, even though the aliens are about to overwhelm their position.
    Nantz: I am not leaving you here! NO I'M NOT LEAVING YOU! Not again!
  • "Not So Different" Remark: 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, told to fight with no real idea why they're fighting.
  • 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.note  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 — who believes him to be uncaring about his men and unfit for duty — and explains to him that the faces, names, and serial numbers of every man who died under his command haunt him every day.
  • 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.
  • Not Quite Dead: Played with, then aggressively defied. Lenihan puts half a magazine into an alien, causing it to fall into a pool and out of sight. He doesn't drop his guard, and fires at a slight movement in the water. The rest of the team arrives and the alien springs back up, taking a barrage of bullets for its efforts. Without missing a beat, Nantz orders a grenade dropped in the pool.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Averted. See Not That Kind of Doctor.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: zigzagged. While the aliens obviously have tricks that the human defenders aren't prepared for, they also use tactics and strategies that are similar enough to human ones to be analyzed. Their infantry, as mentioned repeatedly, is functionally the same as ours in terms of tactics, equipment and disposition; the Marines may not know what that giant thing is, but they know This Is Gonna Suck.
  • 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-Asskicking 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:
    Martinez: This is Second Lieutenant William Martinez, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. Ooh-Ra!
  • Previews Pulse: Used in the trailer.
  • 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.
  • Punny Name: The platoon's radioman is LCPL Steven Mottola, who is nicknamed "Motorola".
  • 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. It is lampshaded by a panicked and nearly delirious Lenihan.
      Lenihan: It's not dead. They don't die. I've hit it a hundred times. They don't die!
    • 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.
  • Real Men Cook: LCPL Stavrou, the hulking machine gunner from Newark, New Jersey (not known for being the friendliest neighborhood in America) is quite knowledgeable about floral arrangements.
  • 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 Lad-ette, and so on, and makes them work.
  • Recycled In Space: It's Black Hawk Down... with ALIENS!
  • Red Shirt: Pretty much any unnamed Marine.
  • 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.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Lenihan, Simmons, and Guerrero, all of whom are prominent in the first act, are killed when the evac helicopter is shot down to establish that A) the aliens do have air support, taking away one of humanity's biggest advantages, and B), Anyone Can Die.
  • 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. A veteran NCO with twenty years in the Corps and multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt, he is firm, decisive, and courageous in combat, and knows when to yell at someone and when to build them back up. When LT Martinez slips into a Heroic BSoD, Nantz not only snaps him out of it, but is careful to do so away from the men to avoid undermining Martinez.
  • Shaky Cam: The camera is constantly moving and audiences were reportedly getting nauseous because of it. The filmmakers were fully aware that this might happen and refused to do a 3D conversion because the additional effect would have probably caused people to vomit.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lieutenant Corporal Kerns.
  • 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.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Nantz's speech to the rest of his squad at the ruined FOB base is basically telling all of his men (who don't trust him because he lost his entire squad in Iraq and one of whom assumes that he deliberately engineered it in order to get a medal) to shut the fuck up.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Santos is the sole woman among the Marines.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Martinez's wife is shown to be pregnant at the beginning of the movie. He dies.
  • The Squadette: Santos is a tough female NCO who fits in perfectly with her male comrades. There are no other female armed services personnel seen serving in direct combat roles.
  • 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 kill them effectively 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 as we understand it; 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.
  • They Would Cut You Up: A pragmatic variant. Staff Sergeant Nantz, Navy Hospital Corpsman Adukwu, and Michele (a veterinarian) cut open a wounded alien, not to save its life, but to figure out how to kill it efficiently so the Marines don't waste their ammo. They discover that the aliens' heads are purely sensory organs, and their brains are behind their "hearts".
    Adukwu: No frontal lobe, no temporal lobe, no parietal lobe. The cranial vault is unlike anything I have ever seen.
  • 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, piloted by one alien behind it. A lot of missiles. In clusters. Things explode. A lot.
  • War Crime Subverts Heroism: The sequence where Nantz stabs, cuts, and tears at a still-living alien to figure out where to hit it to kill it, all while it weakly writhes in obvious agony. 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 not trying to torture it, but rather trying to learn how to kill the alien efficiently; it just takes him a while to figure exactly out how to do that, as the aliens' anatomy is unlike anything ever seen on Earth.
  • War Is Hell: Definitely played this way. Combat is chaotic, noisy, and hellish. Soldiers have breakdowns, there's a scene that would be torture for any other reason but the way they're doing it (they're trying to figure out how to kill the thing as quickly as possible, not trying to cause it a lot of pain), pretty much every other scene where Nantz's unit is walking down a street there's at least one dead civilian, plus the panorama of the wrecked beach with smoking craters, hundreds of bodies, and wrecked vehicles everywhere.
  • 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."
    • Later, when they finally make contact with friendly forces;
    Helicopter Crew Chief: We're abandoning Los Angeles!
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Subverted in the case of the aliens, who open fire on a beach crowded with people and proceed to shoot indiscriminately at everything they see. Civilian bodies are often seen in various areas.
  • You Are in Command Now: The mortally wounded Lieutenant Martinez invokes this to Nantz just before his Heroic Sacrifice. telling Nantz to get the rest of the squad out before the aliens overwhelm them.
    Martinez: I've a bag of C4 on the bus. Get this to my wife [hands over a letter] and get them off this goddamned freeway!