July 22, 2010


Angelina Jolie came to San Diego Comic-Con. She looked as good as you can imagine, but really didn’t blow anybody away because she was promoting Salt, which opens on Friday.

The real meat of the Sony panel on Thursday in Hall H was our first look at Battle: Los Angeles, a blend of Independence Day, Transformers, and Black Hawk Down that opens on March 11, 2011. We saw several minutes of footage and were treated to a few tidbits of information from producer Neil Moritz, director Jonathan Liebsman (Darkness Falls), and stars Michelle Rodriguez and Aaron Eckhart.

Hit the jump to hear about the footage and what was said on the panel.

battle_los_angeles_set_photo_aaron_eckhart_01First the footage. It starts with the tease of a real event that happened in 1942 when several thousand people in Los Angeles saw a UFO, the military fired thousands of rounds at it and nothing happened. It then cuts to a fleet of helicopters who are mowed down by meteors which are almost appearing out of thin air over the Los Angeles skyline. These meteors contain aliens and one unit of Marines has three hours to get to Santa Monica to find a group of stranded civilians among the wreckage. Then on the street, those Marines are almost totally blinded by a cloud of dust as we get glimpses of creatures that sort of look like Michael Bay’s Transformers, but smaller. After the scene ends, the footage transitioned into a montage of action — buildings burning, huge crowds running, and the line “We must not lose Los Angeles.”

Battle: Los Angeles is obviously a long way off and not much is finished effects-wise. So it’s no surprise that we didn’t get to see too many action scenes.  I love the idea of this movie, but without seeing the aliens or how huge the action really gets (many of the epic shots in the footage looked like establishing shots) I can’t tell if it’s going to be as great as it probably could be.

The Q&A was more promising. Liebsman said he wanted aliens that weren’t exactly creatures, like in Alien, or bugs, like in District 9. He said the aliens in his movie are “literally alien” and almost defy description though they have a bio-mechanical influence.

Moritz said one of the reasons he was drawn to the project was the way it took a huge mythos, alien sightings, and gave it an interesting context. Each of these sightings that you’ve heard about can be explained in one way in this movie – they were scouting missions for an alien invasion in 2011, and he loved that idea.

Eckhart said that he and the actors spend three weeks in boot camp before shooting and it really bonded the actors to a point where he thought they were actually looked and acted like Marines. Rodriguez said that though she didn’t go through as intensive a training regiment as the boys, she did learn to disassemble an M4 in under a minute. “Modern Warfare doesn’t teach you that.”

The director and producer were drawn to the project because they’ve never seen an alien invasion told through the eyes of such a small group of people and wrapped in the motif of urban warfare. They wanted it to be intense and Rodriguez said that, after watching 40 minutes of the movie, it truly reminded her of a first person shooter like Modern Warfare or Halo.

avatar_james_cameron_movie_image_michelle_rodriguez_01For Rodriguez, the most grueling part of the preparation for her was the research to be an Air Force Tech Sergeant. She said that everything she saw made her realize that “America is a very safe place.”

The moment Eckhart knew he wanted to do the movie was when Liebsman popped up a video of real soldiers on YouTube and said “This is what I want our movie to look like,” though it was a real challenge to keep the balance between the reality of war and the aliens. The way they did that was, much like James Cameron oversees design, make everything as realistic and plausible as possible. Everything the aliens does has a purpose and explanation.

Someone asked Rodriguez if she would ever take a less macho role to which she replied, “You mean like get raped and win an Oscar?” which got quite the response. She added, though,  that right now she’s really drawn to kick ass, physical roles and hopes those roles become more prevalent for women in Hollywood.

The cast and crew said all the right things and seemed genuinely excited by their participation. Hopefully Sony will release a trailer soon.

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