Film Review: Battleship
Director: Peter Berg (2012)
Can you keep your head while trapped inside a giant, extra-terrestrial, electromagnetic dome? Are you man or woman enough to stand your ground as giant spike balls of death hurtle towards you at the speed of light? Do you have the skills to save a battalion of geriatrics, confused college kids, wounded Japanese men and Rihanna from instant death? Fancy marrying Liam Neeson’s daughter? Then maybe you should join………………….the navy. What? You thought these days the navy was just about being a subject of Village People song and chasing Somali pirates? Think again, sci-fi Top Gun on crack with aliens, sorry, I mean Battleship, dishes the dirt, the real dirt, these boys and girls in the navy, and by navy, I of course mean, the American navy, drink hard, play hard and fight aliens hard, all around the shoreline of sweet Hawaii, which is hard.
Taylor Kitsch, no I’ve never heard of him either, is Alex Hopper, a wise cracking, brick of a man, capable of taking a police taser in his stride, bathing off a hangover in ice water and reading Sun Tzu’s, Art of War. For some reason, the navy consider him a useless layabout, this is in spite of the fact, that within the first five minutes he’s already gone to the length of breaking into a convenience store, (falling through a roof twice in the process), in order to chivalrously get a pretty girl a chicken burrito. When reading Sun Tzu and breaking and entering, isn’t enough to be considered motivated, you know your navy’s damn tough. Hopper’s navy buddies include Rihanna, former power ranger John Tui, and generic baby faced comic relief Jesse Plemons………..yeah I’ve only heard of Rihanna too. The groups commanding officer (Alexander Skarsgård) happens to be Alex’s do-gooder older brother, and Alex’s chicken burrito loving girlfriend Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) has a father who happens to be the navy’s Vice Admiral, which seems to mean boss…………….and is Liam Neeson, so there’s someone else you’ve heard of. Samantha, (Alex’s girlfriend if you haven’t kept up), is a physiotherapist for maimed soldiers, her current patient, Mick Canales, (Gregory D. Gadson), is a former army colonel, now, unfortunately missing both legs. Another brick of a man, he spends his days with stilts where his knee’s used to be, moaning about how he can’t be a soldier anymore, or save the world from an alien invasion. Oh, and there’s also a generic, Jeff Goldblum in Independence day, scientist geek (Hamish Linklater) who uses words like electromagnetism, pulse and relay.
One day, in Hawaii, the folks mentioned in the previous, poorly structured paragraph, are all either being Jeff Goldblum in independence day, or at a ceremony marking the beginning of the incredibly poorly titled RIMPAC multinational naval exercise, (no Brits, but plenty of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and I believe I saw some Russians). A giant naval war games/football match, until they get interrupted by alien ships descending upon earth. The reason for this being the American government’s momentously under-thought decision to send a signal to a distant planet they thought might have contained intelligent life. It definitely contained life, but intelligent may be a stretch seeing as how the first thing the aliens do is crash their only communications ship into a satellite, and subsequently, Hong Kong. The rest of the alien crafts descend upon the waters of Hawaii, seeking to use a Jeff Goldblum in Independence day, manned satellite relay to send a message back home. The ships land, surface, and then don’t do a lot until a scouting Alex Hopper (the lead) touches one of the ships, causing it to cover the island and three warships in an impenetrable electromagnetic dome, a dome which happens to keep Vice Admiral Liam Neeson out, so that’s one in the column for alien intelligence. Authors opinion here, don’t touch recently discovered alien technology with your bare-hand, it only ever leads to bad things.
What follows is bizarre to the point of fuck nuts crazy; alien crafts jump across water instead of simply sailing (does that make them boats, planes or jumping floats), giant metal balls of death, with never ending columns of metallic teeth and chains for a tail attack a child’s baseball game and a highway for no discernible reason, an entire boat load of Japanese sailors are saved from the water by Hopper and his men, then, apart from their captain, never seen again, and at one point, Hopper’s ship plays an alien vessel at a giant game of Battleships, via a convoluted plot point that incorporates the Tsunami early warning system. It should also be noted here, the aliens never actually reveal any plan, at one point Hopper has a strange sense that he ‘might need to find a new planet’, but that’s as close as any form of extra-terrestrial motivation comes.
There’s the suggestion that if the aliens can be prevented from signalling back to their own planet, then that will stop a full scale alien invasion, I’ve been racking my giant head around this, and I can’t figure out how, a) the absence of a signal would somehow prevent the aliens sending a new batch of ships along the same flight path as the originals that already arrived on earth and b) how anyone can be sure that the ships that landed weren’t just a scouting party for a much bigger armada heading directly towards them.
Regular readers, if they existed, would by now, be gearing themselves for a poorly punctuated, preachy paragraph, extolling the virtues of characterisation and logical story progression, rallying heatedly against a current trend in films to sacrifice these aspects in favour of three dimensional viewing experiences, boobs or loud Michael Bay styled explosions and stuff. Their expectation perhaps enhanced by the knowledge that Battleship is from the same team which worked on, ‘Mr Bay sticks his penis in the mouth of my childhood memories, Transformers’, but I’m not going down that route. It’s not that Battleship doesn’t warrant such a rant, believe me it does, but because I actually quite enjoyed it. Yes, you read that right, enjoyed it. You see, I don’t really mind a big dumb, overacted action film, I just hate it when a big dumb action film tries to convince me it’s something else…………………. Insert Rise of the Planet of the Apes reference here.
Look, I don’t go to see a film called Battleship, based on a board game called battleship(s), expecting a new Citizen Kane, I go for something dumb, and fun, and in the hope the dialogue won’t be superficial nonsense with a side of exposition. With Battleship, what I got was just that; a fun, camp, goofy, breakneck and ludicrous film, nothing more, nothing less. When I saw a former soldier with two legs missing, I had that sense of dread which comes when I’m about to be preached too, but nope, all the guy does is walk around, says few over-the-top things and then gets into a fist fight with an alien. Some could say that skirts over a lot of issues to do with wounded soldiers, and you’re right, it does, a hell of a lot, but if I wanted to be confronted with those issues, I’d watch something like Born on the Fourth of July. An over the top action film about an alien invasion of earth, is not the forum for that discussion, and unlike a number of recent films that tried to insert a claim for greater cultural significance by superficially inserting a dumbed down version of an emotive issue, (Woman’s rights in The Three Musketeers, corporate greed in Rise of, audience desensitization in Rubber ETC), Battleship didn’t care about anything except trying to be entertaining, and that’s what I appreciated.
No good film ever came close to the sentence; ‘If you like the thought of Top Gun and Independence Day combined, then you’ll probably enjoy this’, but that doesn’t stop Battleship being fun. I view being bad, and being badly made as two different points on the enjoyability spectrum, and while I have to say Battleship is a bad film, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable one, in the right setting, if your family aren’t in the navy, and you have both your legs, and you’re not Chris Brown.
Written By Sam ‘Can see the upside of having Vice Admiral Liam Neeson as your father-in-law’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions
Why not be kind and drop a like on facebook