Battleship Review By Adam
Wow. Battleship is amazing… and not in a good way. This deep-fried slice of Americana is the most retarded, bombastic piece of shit to hit our screens in an age. Battleship is a bizarre hotpot of jingoism, overblown CGI, sentimentality, useless sub-plots and overt, hard rock music cues. Battleship makes Michael Bay’s films look subtle by comparison. Despite its lobotomised, film-by-committee stylings, it is not boring. But hey, if you throw enough shit at the screen, some of it is going to stick.
Battleship‘s plot is simultaneously moronic and over-complicated. The film follows perpetual fuck-up Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who, after getting arrested for stealing a burrito for a girl (Brooklyn Decker), joins the navy. As a weekend of Hawaiian naval exercises commences, Hopper has a bunch of adversity to conquer: he wants to prove himself to his a naval career-man brother (Alexander Skarsgård), his burrito-loving girlfriend wants him to ask her father for her hand in marriage and, finally, he needs to prove himself to the admiral of his fleet (Liam Neeson) who also happens to be the father in question. Alex’s personal and professional lives are the least of his problems as, unbeknownst to him, hostile aliens are about to invade the planet. When the aliens arrive (in Hawaii), they create a force field that locks Alex and his crew into their range. Alex now not only has to prove himself but has to stop the impending invasion. Honestly, I wish I was making this shit up. Did I mention that Alex’s girlfriend works as a physical therapist that helps navy amputees? No? Well, how else are they going to stage a scene where a double amputee punches-on with a CGI alien? No shit, this actually takes place in Battleship. This thing is off the rails. Battleship has less of a story and more of a bog of screenwriting clichés. The script to Battleship is like Arnie in the Terminator films: the further it goes along, the more of its moving parts you can see.
Now, I know that you aren’t challenging Kubrick’s status when you make a feature film based on a board game, but Battleship is an appalling achievement. The thing that makes Battleship uniquely awful is its combination of individual ingredients: like a science experiment, I doubt that you could recreate this formula. Some of the notions in this film are not, in and of themselves, terrible. For example, director Peter Berg is obviously enamoured with the navy (his father was a war historian) and he throws nods in whenever he can, but combined with this film’s patriotism, it chokes on its own corn. Giving cameos to old vets is a nice touch, but putting a 90-year old front and centre of the action is fucking ridiculous. I cannot stress how much of this movie is ‘military porn’; not since Top Gun has a film so clearly operated as a walking, talking, recruitment device. I really hope no one enlists after seeing Battleship‘s promise of girls, aliens and glory, as I seriously doubt scrubbing a latrine is as exciting as punching an alien.
Peter Berg is a talented guy. He has slowly but steadily made a solid transition from actor to director. He picked unpretentious fare to begin with (Very Bad Things, Welcome to the Jungle) and slowly turned into a director of class (his Friday Night Lights is a superb film). With that said, I don’t know what the fuck has happened with his last two films – his Will Smith-starer Hancock is a clusterfuck of the highest order (read its torrid history here) and now we have Battleship. It seems that Berg is aspiring to become a swinging dick, big-budget filmmaker, but his idol seems to be Michael Bay and not James Cameron. I’d love to decry this as moronic, CGI-heavy, ADD-filmmaking but the two aforementioned films are far and away Berg’s highest grossing (almost a billion dollars, combined). So what incentive does he have to revert to his old ways? It would appear that Mr Bay was jealous of his talents and introduced him to the world of hookers and cocaine. How else do you explain him casting Rihanna as a naval weapons specialist? At least Under Siege had the honesty to cast its female lead (Erika Elenak) as a stripper.
But hey, what if the gamble paid off? What if Rihanna is good in the film? No, she is not. And frankly, neither is anyone else. The only exception is Taylor Kitsch. He is passable as Hopper and brings just the right level of arrogance and non-conformity for us to invest in his character. Brooklyn Decker is an amazing specimen (even Elton John feels funny in the pants when she dons a swimsuit), but I’m supposed to buy her as a no-nonsense healthcare professional? Come on. Liam Neeson obviously wanted an extension put on his gazebo as there could be no other incentive for his (brief) presence as the admiral. Alexander Skarsgård is burdened with the worst character of his career in ‘Stone Hopper’. He is a po-faced, cliché machine who just wants to see his brother reach his potential. Retch.
As wretched as the human element of Battleship is, it is nothing compared to the aliens. The aliens don extensive mechanised suits: so far, so formulaic. But once we get a look at their faces the wind in Battleship‘s sails is truly lost. They, no joke, have little, spiky, red goatees. Oh, and they are completely GGI…crap CGI. Most sci-fi creature features live and die on the strength of their antagonists’ designs i.e. weak creatures = a forgettable film. Unfortunately, Battleship is the definition of this formula. ‘Hey, what of its board game origins?‘ I hear you cry! Well…Battleship contains a sequence where the crew use sonar and buoys to play ‘Battleship’…with the aliens! This sequence is simultaneously ingenious and retarded; ingenious in making it a functioning element of the story, retarded in including it at all. Would anyone on the planet leave this film disappointed if it didn’t contain a nod to the board game? I seriously doubt it.
For all of my (obvious) whining, Battleship does contain an undeniably high level of energy. Berg can be called everything but lazy. His set pieces have so much conviction that you feel guilty laughing at them, especially when AC/DC kicks in. That being said, I think this film is immune to the ‘so bad, it’s good’ defence. You can’t ‘get’ a film like Battleship. It’s not satire, it doesn’t play on two levels like Starship Troopers, it’s just shit. Still, I almost encourage you to seek it out. As a piece of miscalculated, American wankery, it is almost unparalleled. Consider this one ‘sunk’.