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Although “Battle: Los Angeles” won’t arrive in theaters until March 2011, Comic-Con International attendees were treated to a sneak peek at the alien-invasion film in Hall H.
In the preview, a mysterious alien presence appears in the skies over Los Angeles. A brutal attack is made, and the Marines are called in to help survivors escape a devastated part of the city. When they arrive, they discover the aliens – rarely glimpsed in this preview – are still present and ready to jump out at any moment to unleash havoc.
“I have not seen an alien invasion told from just the point of view of the Marines,” said director Jonathan Liebesman. “We don’t cut away to the president … it’s like ‘Black Hawk Down’ with aliens.”
Part of the preview showed that in 1942, multiple UFOs were seen in the skies above Los Angeles. During the incident — it’s an actual event now referred to as the Battle of Los Angeles or “The Great Los Angeles Air Raid” — 1,500 anti-aircraft shells were fired during the hourlong bombardment. According to the panelists, the perceived attack provided the inspiration for the film.
“What we came up with is [the 1942 UFO incident] was a scouting mission for an eventual invasion that would take place in 2011,” producer Neil Moritz said. “From the moment I read the script, I loved the realism. I loved what would really happen if there were an alien invasion. I loved the idea of being with the people who would protect us, being in their shoes. The realism is really key in the project.”
Aaron Eckhart, who most comic fans know as Harvey Dent from “The Dark Knight,” stars as the lead Marine. Eckhart and his fellow cast took the realism seriously, going so far as undergoing boot camp in Louisiana.
“We did three weeks of boot camp before production,” Eckhart said. “We put up a tent, ate there, slept there, called each other by our screen names. We learned how to think like Marines, act like Marines, swear like Marines, drink like Marines. In doing that we got to know each other.”
Eckhart said that by the time filming began, he felt like the cast was really a group of embedded Marines.
“As an actor you always want to extend your range and play your range from top to bottom,” he said. “I think people like that when they see their actors going for it. There were times during this movie that Jonathan really drove us. … We needed water, but he didn’t think it was good for us. I looked at these guys in 100-degree weather, in dirt, and I thought, ‘Dammit, you’re Marines.’ They had the 1,000-yard stare and everything. As an actor, that’s what it’s all about.”
Liebesman said he wanted to do something different with the film’s aliens; they’re not creatures, and they’re not insects. What he liked most about the alien design is that it was something he had never seen before.
“The only way I can describe it is … alien,” he said.
Besides the unique aliens, the first-person shooter feel of the movie is also a new angle.
“When I saw about 40 minutes of it, I grabbed an imaginary Xbox and tried to move out of the way,” said Michelle Rodriguez (“Lost”). “It’s very first-man shooter perspective through the whole movie — it’s an interesting audience experience.”
Liebesman said the first-person angle was the inspiration of screenwriter Chris Bertolini.
“[It looks like] a lot of the embedded footage you get of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
Rodriguez was asked by a fan if it was difficult for her to perform the physical role. She replied that she prefers physical roles over mental roles.
“Playing a tech sergeant, I had to geek out, really,” she said. “I did a lot of research going to the Air Force and seeing how they track frequencies and things, and after that, I have to say, we really are safe. America is a really safe place. Boot camp was challenging, but I didn’t have to sleep there like they did. There are advantages to being a girl.”