It would seem that the most appropriate title for reflections on alien invasions and motherhood would be a film propounding a certain need for mothers on Mars, as seen here. Yet close analysis will show that the more apt movies to be considered on that subject are the more serious and artistic films, such as “Battle: Los Angeles.”
Reviewers have not taken kindly to “Battle: Los Angeles,” or BLA (pronounced “blah”). Some have criticized its filmography and narrative construction as being too similar to first-person shooters common in video game consoles. Others have dismissed its dialogue as half-hearted sentimentalism. Still others see it as a recruiting tool for U.S. Marines, at the same time being a veritable train wreck of Saving Private Ryan and Independence Day.
What all of these reviewers have failed to realize is the deep value that BLA brings in redefining the role of motherhood.
Given, a plot synopsis of the movie does not immediately invite this observation: aliens have landed all over the world, including near Los Angeles. Marines are called to evacuate civilians from Los Angeles. Marines battle aliens to save the civilians and themselves. SPOILER: the Marines win.
The roll of mothers is found on several levels. First and foremost, mothers are present in the invasion of earth as a whole. Mother nature itself is under assault, and it becomes the mission of the entire human race to ensure that She is not pillaged.
In this sense motherhood is a passive role. It is a nurturing role in that it provides for the entire human race. This would seem to make for the idea that humanity takes on a fatherly, protective role. However, this is where the movie manages to undercut traditional societal norms because the defenders of motherhood are not fathers, but more mothers.
The United States military is soon itself taking on the role of a mother, at once protecting those underneath her. It is a case of mothers protecting mothers, where mothers are seen to go on the offensive.
In no one else is this role more clearly portrayed than in the protagonist of the movie, Sgt. Michael Nantz. Nantz struggles with having made difficult decisions and excepts the burden of not being trusted by those above and under his command, yet at the same time he is protective of those who might scorn him.
Thus it is that Nantz plays the part of Hester Prynne in “The Scarlet Letter,” whom critics have called the archetype of motherhood. Both characters have tremendous burdens, yet both take in the criticism of their society while being yet true to themselves.
Nantz shows that he cares deeply for those who have died under his command when he lists their serial number and names from memory, while at the same time glorifying the present when he says, “None of that matters now,” immediately afterward.
It is also clear that the makers of this film aim to deconstruct traditional understandings of the most famous of all mothers, the Virgin Mary. The invasion is an annunciation
in reverse. While the angel Gabriel brought good tidings to Mary considering the salvations of the human race, the celestial visitors in BLA come to earth, and more specifically Los Angeles, the city of angels, to pronounce doom on all of humankind.
The role of mothers then secure in the movie – affirmed as nurturing and protective without denying them their place as violent and forward thinking – one might ask, is there a place for fatherhood? The answer can only be, no.
This yet again challenging our preconceptions about how society should operate. It is a film, subversive, intense and beautiful in its determination to redefine motherhood in the event of an extraterrestrial invasion.