I was somewhat disappointed that the movie did not really connect with the real Battle of Los Angeles. But the movie presented a lot of themes that are worth exploring. Some of the overt themes are the tenacity of humanity. Also the meme of alien invasion. There is also a not so subtle reference to the next big thing in catastrophes and that is the scarcity of water. There is the general glorification of the military in the mix too.
I guess they were basing this loosely on the original Battle of LA where, during World War II, there was a massive air raid on an unknown object in the sky that didn't succeed in shooting anything down.
There is very little extrapolation of spiritual ideas in the movie which is rather strange from a science fiction perspective however there are a lot of undertones. Human capacity to "win" is shown to be founded upon will which is a function of ego. The struggling humans only succeed when they are able to push themselves further and this is through a conscious act of will.
The main character is played by Aaron Eckhart, who just so happened (wink, wink) to play Two-Face/Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight.
He is the reluctant hero. There is one direct esoteric reference to religion in that SSgt Nantz (played by Eckhart) carries out the scene of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane where he asks to have the burden he carries to be removed, if possible; by resigning from the marines just prior to the invasion (because of a burden he carries).
Nantz is a Reluctant hero in the classical sense. Much like in Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces".
There is no supernatural intervention for Nantz in the story arc (unless one can say that the supernatural intervention is the alien invasion itself, which does come from "the heavens"- the invasion also nullifies Nantz's attempt at quitting the marines) but he does experience the period of doubt and overcomes his burden by confronting it directly. He also takes the mantle fully during the course of the movie even going so far as to dig into an alien in order to determine a method by which they can be killed. This mirrors somewhat the idea of Mithras killing the bull in the Mithraic Mysteries.
Nantz is clearly the driving force and character of the movie. The other soldiers are along for the ride. They also fail to recognize the hero in Nantz until they see for themselves (shades of "Doubting Thomas").
The overwhelming message of the movie is the idea that reluctant hero Nantz is really the only hope that humanity has and through him and his transformation others may rise to the challenge. This is clearly an imitation of initiation into the Mysteries and the receiving of sacred knowledge, by the supporting characters. Without Nantz Los Angeles is lost, and by extension the Earth.
Some side issues worth note are the ideas that the aliens need Water (symbolic motifs include Trance-formation, Purification, and Blessing) and that water is scarce everywhere but here, and that the water is used to power the aliens devices. Water is going to be a big thing in the coming years and the meme of it's importance is certainly strengthened with this movie.
(Update: 3/15/11: The History Channel has a show "Prophets of Doom", this morning's topic, you guessed it; WATER. They discuss pharmaceutical contamination, sewage contamination and loss of supply, etc. They discussed other doom scenarios but I happened to turn the TV on at the time they were discussing WATER.)
The aliens show no real interest in man and do nothing in the movie but destroy and kill. There is no attempt at communication that is revealed. The aliens, although generally anthropomorphic, are radically different from humans. The aliens are TRULY alien, and as such are truly Other.
A science fiction story, a trans formative story, an initiatory story, and with very subtle elements. It will have resonance with some who can catch these subtleties.
The final note of "coincidence" is that on the day of it's release Japan was hit by an Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami.
I was thinking as I drove to the theater to see the movie that I would have to do a video talking about it in context. Then seeing the movie I noted 2 things immediately, the arrival of the aliens was cloaked as a meteor swarm and they landed in the ocean causing massive waves and devastation.