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Why Sci-Fi Action Fan Fave Battle: Los Angeles Was Never Going to Be Rated R

Looking back at how the film became a cable re-run sci-fi staple.

By Trent Moore
A soldier watches a alien ship fall in Battle Los Angeles (2011).

The 2011 sci-fi action flick Battle: Los Angeles was only a modest box office success, but thanks to the power of cable re-runs and streaming over the past decade, it’s become a bit of a cult hit among genre and action fans — but was there ever an R-rated cut considered of this alien invasion epic?

Despite the obvious R-rated potential for an epic war movie featuring alien killers, director Jonathan Liebesman says Battle: Los Angeles (streaming right now on SYFY) was never seriously considered for an R rating. Instead, the entire story and concept was conceived with a PG-13 vibe from the start.

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“It’s PG-13, and the reason I didn’t debate was because I feel like you can create so much fear and suspense in a PG-13 situation. I think occasionally gore and stuff like that is unnecessary. Sometimes its used well, but being PG-13 doesn’t mean you can’t have blood and stuff like that,” Liebsman explained in an archived 2011 interview with Collider. “You just can’t have blood spraying everywhere or dripping, you can have alien blood doing that you just can’t have human blood. Look at movies like The Dark Knight, there’s great suspense and psychological fear that comes out of PG-13 films these days, cause the ratings are pretty hard what you get away with — you just want something like ‘f—k’ every second word. Which, marines say it a lot, I really feel we can live without it and when I see the scenes and the intensity we have, I don’t miss it.”

Battle: Los Angeles stars Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena, Lucas Till, and more, and focuses largely on a military unit sent into the heart of Los Angeles to try and save residents and repel an ongoing alien attack. The handheld-style puts you right in the thick of the action; even now, the movie still holds up as a fun thrill ride.

Why Battle: Los Angeles worked better as a PG-13 movie

There’s no doubt Liebesman struck a good balance with Battle: Los Angeles’ tone, which channels the modern-day military action of films like Black Hawk Dawn but married with a sci-fi mystery about an enemy threat so far beyond what humanity is prepared to face. The movie itself is a tense war film, approached with the same grounded vibe you’d find in a standard military action story, just instead of Nazis or insurgents, they’re facing unstoppable killer aliens.

Looking back, you have to wonder if Battle: Los Angeles would’ve ever been able to find its place in pop culture had it been R-rated. It would’ve made TV edits a whole lot harder to cut the language and gore, and it would’ve been much harder for the film to become a cable staple over the past decade. But as it stands, Battle: Los Angeles is the perfect background flick for some good ol' sci-fi adventure.

Need a refresher? Stream Battle: Los Angeles right now on SYFY

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