5.20.2012

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Battleship (2012)

DIRECTED BY
Peter Berg

STARRING
Taylor Kitsch - Alex Hopper
Liam Neeson - Admiral Shane
Alexander Skarsgard - Stone Hopper
Rihanna - Cora Raikes
Brooklyn Decker - Samantha Shane
Tadanobu Asano - Nagata
Hamish Linklater - Cal Napata
Jesse Plemons - Ordy


Genre - Action/Science Fiction

Running Time - 131 Minutes


PLOT
Lazy and unmotivated Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is being forced to grow up by joining the Navy with his mature older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard). Stone is tired of Alex's antics, wanting Alex to finally be a man and take some direction in his life. Unfortunately, Alex proves his immaturity by trying to impress a girl named Sam (Brooklyn Decker) during some drunk adventure where he breaks into a convenience store to get her a chicken burrito [Jesus...] - which he gets tased and arrested for.

Sometime later, Alex is in the Navy with his brother Stone. Alex and Sam are now a couple and want to get married. Unfortunately, Alex needs to ask Sam's father, Admiral Shane (
Liam Neeson), for Sam's hand in marriage. But before he can, everyone is concerned with an alien invasion after some scientists decided it was a great idea to send a signal to their home planet to see if alien life really does exist. Now with the alien race trying to destroy Hawaii and take over planet Earth, the Navy must stop this before impending doom strikes.


REVIEW

I have three words for BATTLESHIP:


WHAT THE FUCK!? 







HITS

- Special effects. BATTLESHIP is a terrible film in a lot of ways. But at least it has some good CGI that will stimulate the eyes. If you've seen TRANSFORMERS or any of its sequels, you know exactly what you're getting here. Industrial Light & Magic do a good job with the looks of the alien invaders, as well as the special effects [like the destruction of some bridges, buildings, and a pretty cool scene where Hong Kong gets destroyed a bit]. In many ways, BATTLESHIP is TRANSFORMERS-lite, with ships and other large structures getting blown up to keep the audience interested in what they're watching - although the visuals aren't as exciting or over-the-top as those in TRANSFORMERS.

I will say that I loved that the missiles used look like the ones from the board game this film was inspired by, showing that there was some kind of connection there. Although, I did feel that the aliens [especially in their armor] looked too much like Master Chief from the Halo games, making me want to play Halo rather than watch this. And when the helmets come off, the aliens look okay I guess. But compared to everything else the film offers, the special effects are the highlight - even if the average Michael Bay film presents them better.

- Old school vs. new school. Even though BATTLESHIP is brainless with a script that has no depth at all, I did like the theme of old school vs. new school. As you can guess from the trailers, the aliens tend to rely on advanced technology to destroy Earth, kill humans, and send signals to their fellow aliens to invade Earth with the use of satellites. The navy also uses advanced technology as well, but it doesn't really seem to work against these invaders.

It's not until the veterans of World War II are brought in where the tide turns in favor of the humans. Using old fashioned tactics and strategies against the aliens, the heroes begin to win the war. I feel Peter Berg and the screenwriters wanted to say that relying on too much technology is a bad thing, when the simplier ways of yesteryear did the job a lot better. Old school beats new school, no matter how advanced the world gets technologically. The use of brains and intelligence seems to be superior than letting some machine do the work and thinking to get the job done. I'm not saying that this is a great theme or anything, but at least there seemed to be something to the story that was more than just superficial. So I'll take what I can get from this.

- The soundtrack. I liked the score and use of classic rock songs in the film. AC/DC can be heard for the second time this summer [THE AVENGERS being first with "Shoot To Thrill"], letting the filmmakers use "Hard as a Rock" and "Thunderstruck" to give the film an energetic feel. The use of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" is used towards the end, even though it's pretty cliche at this point whenever it appears in a war/pro-military film. But still, these are some great songs so I can't complain.

- The acting. Let me get this out of the way: the acting isn't great in this film. Not in the least. But I can't totally hate this portion of the film. Why? Because of a couple of things. One, the script is so bad that it doesn't allow anyone to really act to the best of their ability. And two, I thought many of the performances were unintentionally funny. So because of that small bit of entertainment, I'll put the "thespian" work on the positive side of things.


Taylor Kitsch, who seems to be box office poison as of late with the failure of JOHN CARTER and now BATTLESHIP [at least domestically], isn't all that bad here as Alex Hopper. Even though he probably relied on his looks more than anything, at least he tries to make his character interesting, likeable, and heroic. Unfortunately, the domestic failure of this film will probably be blamed on Kitsch, but he was one of the better actors here. I don't think he's leading man material yet because he doesn't have that much charisma in my opinion, but he does alright here. Liam Neeson is barely used here as Admiral Shane, but at least he classes up the joint whenever he does appear. He also brings some subtle comedy to his role, especially when he interacts with Kitsch. More of a "paycheck" job here, but it's always great to see him. Tadanobu Asano was great as Nagata, playing Kitsch's foil well until he joins him against the aliens. I wish he was given more to do. And Jesse Plemon was pretty funny as Ordy, being the comic relief of the film. He's the kind of character that should annoy me, but I didn't mind him one bit.

Brooklyn Decker is beautiful, but is pretty vapid in her role as Sam. Gregory Gadson did a good job, even though I'm not sure how I feel about exploiting the fact that he's an amputee in the film. He had some cool moments in the film though. Alexander Skasgard looked absolutely bored and frustrated as Stone Hopper. Since he was given nothing but bark orders at his fellow sailors and tell Kitsch to grow up, I don't blame him. And Rihanna - stick to singing, girl. She wasn't that great and I didn't buy her as a Naval officer at all. That "daddy" speech - PAINFUL. The bad Halle Berry wig didn't help either. The charisma she has in her music videos was absent in BATTLESHIP. If you did a drinking game for the times she said "Yes sir," in the film, you'd die from alcohol poisoning five times over. But at least her performance entertained me at how bland it was. So that's a plus.


MISSES
- The story, or lack thereof. Gee, where do I start with this? It's hard to discuss a script when it provides absolutely nothing of substance to talk about. BATTLESHIP is a mix of TRANSFORMERS, INDEPENDENCE DAY, TOP GUN, and ARMAGEDDON - four films that are much better than this one. It never seems to have its own identity, relying on things already done before to carry it through to the end. Is it a serious action/sci-fi film? Is it an advertisement for the military? Is it a cheesy play on recent films of its kind? I'm never really sure what the script is trying to do here.

The characters are just bland as hell. Besides Alex Hopper, no one here has an interesting arc. But even Alex's storyline from underachiever to heroic and humble naval soldier feels forced and unnatural. Instead of building to the change, it happens in a blink of the eye once personal tragedy happens. Then he's looked at as the leader against the aliens out of the blue! This is the guy who's always late to orientation and doesn't seem to care about being a soldier to begin with! How does that happen? It makes no sense because nothing before it suggests that Alex has that much rank in the Navy. Also, wouldn't the training and discipline the military puts into their soldiers make a slacker into someone with purpose anyway? Being in the Navy is a serious thing, so I can't see how a clown like Alex could climb the ranks so fast without being disciplined for it. Anyway, the change just seems too sudden. I can believe someone could change after something tragic happens, but not this fast. But at least Alex had a story I could follow.

The other characters don't have anything to chew on at all. Stone's purpose is too scold his brother any chance he gets. Nothing more, nothing less. Sam is the girlfriend role, wanting to marry Alex while working as a physical trainer for amputees. She's both the damsel-in-distress and the tough chick. Cora doesn't do anything but sit down, look at blips [something from the board game], and press buttons. She also shoots guns. Other than that, she offers nothing. Admiral Shane is the stereotypical stern father. Ordy is the comic relief. And Cal is the smart, yet cowardly, scientist who pretty much started the whole thing to begin with. These characters are all stereotypes, yet have no depth to them at all. This could work in a horror film, but not in an action film.

The aliens are no better. I have no idea why they were so hostile to the humans. Yes, the humans made contact with them, but it was friendly contact. But once the aliens invade, they destroy whatever is in their path and try to bring in reinforcements to strengthen their invasion. I didn't understand their motivations. Were they a hostile race? Were they attacking because they were scared? There was no explanation for anything. It just was because it was. How am I supposed to relate with something that obscure? And they turned out to be extra stupid. You send like five alien ships to battle a billion people on Earth? Really? And then what they try to do is so obvious. Also, the aliens are so powerful at the beginning, but are chumps towards the end without any sort of explanation as to that quick change. You have empty humans fighting empty aliens. That might be cool for five minutes, but not for 131 minutes.

Also, there's a hint of recalling Pearl Harbor with the Americans and the Japanese still at odds before uniting to take down a common enemy. Having the film take place in Hawaii where the attacks occurred gives this part of the narrative a bit of irony. Too bad the film never explores it and uses it to deepen the narrative. It doesn't help when one of the characters mocks the Japanese accents behind their backs. So is it promoting forgiveness and unity, or racism? I don't think even the screenwriters know.

This script is just terrible in every way. Things happens because they need to happen in this type of film. The characters are one-dimensional. Important themes are brought up but never followed through. The dialogue is forgettable. The actual board game has a better plot than the film does. Having aliens in a film based on a board game that didn't have any to begin with is the least of the story's problems. It's not explaining why they're here and what they want that's the issue. Say what you want about TRANSFORMERS, but at least each film in that franchise had a story. BATTLESHIP is just too lazy to come up with one.


- The direction. Actor-turned-director Peter Berg has done some great films. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was an excellent film and an even better television show. THE RUNDOWN was a lot of fun. THE KINGDOM was good too. But I have no idea what happened to him here. Berg seems too focused on making a film so pro-military that he loses sight as to what this film should be about - exciting action, cool and stylish visuals, and a pace that should feel shorter than its actual runtime. Instead of Berg being himself, he seems too hard in trying to emulate Michael Bay in terms of visual presentation. In fact, you'd think that Michael Bay directed this film if you didn't see Peter Berg in the credits. But while the special effects and the way they are shot are well done, there's something off about the entire thing. A lot of the time, I actually felt bored. Bored during an action movie - how is that possible? Humans and aliens are shooting each other with guns and missiles. But it's so dull for some reason. I just didn't find it engaging. Maybe I'm still hung up on how the action in THE AVENGERS had a purpose behind it. Here, I didn't get the same feeling.

The pacing is also off at times due to the tone of the film changing every 20 minutes. It's a comedy at one point, then an action film the next, then a dramatic war movie the next. The scenes without the action drag because the characters aren't interesting, which makes their situation less so. The running time felt like 131 minutes, when it should have felt half as long. That's not good.

Also, I hated the editing during certain scenes. Whenever someone would cuss, it would instantly cut to the next scene. It's supposed to be a PG-13 movie, so I understand why the studio would shy away from foul language. But if you know it's going to be a more family friendly film, why have a script with characters who want to cuss the aliens out? Why not just take the dialogue out completely, or switch to more suitable language? It annoyed me every time this happened because it was so unnecessary and easy to fix. It's as if Berg wanted to present a bad ass film while neutering it at the same time. I don't blame him completely for what happened to this film, but Berg should have presented the film with more energy and originality than he did. Not his finest hour at all.


THE FINAL HOWL

Not that I was expecting much out of BATTLESHIP, but it was disappointing to see that it didn't exceed my low expectations. It's too long. There's no story to care about. The characters, the aliens, and the entire scenario are just stupid as hell. I should have had more fun watching a dumb popcorn flick like this, but I was left feeling bored and vapid by the end of it. I respect those who enjoyed this film, but BATTLESHIP isn't for me. I would much prefer playing the actual game for 2 hours. The film sinks before it can float.


SCORE
1 Howl Outta 4



12 comments:

  1. Sounds terrible! I'll make sure to avoid it. I'll just watch The Avengers again! haha!

    Speaking of the PG-13 rating, what's really funny is-over here in Australia, Hellraiser has just been re-rated and given the rating almost-equivelant to PG-13!-It's only rated M! haha!

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    Replies
    1. You're better off watching THE AVENGERS again. BATTLESHIP pretty much bombed here after all the marketing for it. And HELLRAISER given an almost family friendly rating? Ha ha!

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  2. I think Mr. Berg simply wanted to make a big flashy summer blockbuster, nothing more, I mean it's so obvious they didnt want any depth or story, they just wanted to wow you with computer effects. I want to see this one simply for the effects and action.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think that's the case at all. Berg really wanted to promote a pro-military film here and you can tell when you watch it. I don't have an issue with that. I just wish the film was smarter than it was. Being big and flashy is one thing, but put a bit of substance into the material. It's over two hours long and it gets old by 30 minutes.

      As for the computer effects, it's nothing I haven't seen before. If you've seen TRANSFORMERS, you've seen BATTLESHIP. Honestly, I thought the effects in TRANSFORMERS were more interesting. And for an action film, it's pretty dull. But I won't stop anyone from watching this. It's just not a good film, even for a summer blockbuster.

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  3. Fred, its OK that you didn`t like this movie, but something important for you to always remember is that any ONE of the special effects sequences in this film (chosen at random) would still be better and more entertaining by itself than everything that the British film industry has ever produced put together over the last 123 years since the invention of the cinematograph circa 1889. I hate it when American reveiwers trash great American made movies, its like they`re delighting in biting the hand that feeds them.

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    Replies
    1. I don't care where a film was made. If it's terrible, it's terrible. 'Nuff said.

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  4. Good review! This looks like a tough sit...can't stand non-stop CGI and obviously terrible editing.

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    Replies
    1. Well if that's the case, skip this film.

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  5. I have no desire to see this film. I'm sorry but any movie that has Rihanna in it, is obviously going to bomb.

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  6. just watched it and i want 2 hours of my life back

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