My dear readers… why do you hate me?
If you are wondering why am asking this, on my Facebook page, I held a vote for what movie to review this month. The winner, much to my horror and shock, was the incoming turd, Battleship. Yes, the movie very loosely based off the half-century old board game, yet revolves around a bunch of CGI aliens rejected from the last Transformers movie. Just based of the trailers, it had a clear shot at being one of the worst movies of the year, and it shares a summer with Kristen Stewart excreting all over Snow White, so that is no small thing.
The fact that Universal wouldn’t screen it before critics says all that needs to be said about this film, yet if some truly scathing reviews from overseas are any sign, it is worse than any of us could have imagined. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, it was what the folks voting on my page voted for me to review. Every fiber of my being told me not to go see it, and were it not my loyalty to you, my dear reader, to say nothing of a healthy respect for the democratic process, I would have listened to that urge. Instead, I swallowed my pride, ignored common sense, put on a stiff upper lip, and bravely marched into the movie theater.
So is it dumb summer fun or the biggest naval disaster since Pearl Harbor? To the battle stations everyone, as I put Battleship in my critical cross-hairs.
You know you’re in trouble when the trailer tell a better story than the movie, which opens to the sight of our protagonist Alex Hopper, a cocky deadbeat who robs a convenience store to impress a chick he sees in a bar one night. Rather than go to jail for breaking and entering or grand larceny, we fast forward five years to see him as an officer in the Navy, and dating that girl from the bar, who it seems is the daughter of the commander of the US Pacific Fleet. Hopper is still a raging prick though, as he gets into a fight with an officer of the Japanese Navy, which seems to be the only other member of the International War Games, and is promised to be discharged as soon as the fleet returns to port. Before that though, it seems NASA sent a signal to an alien planet a few years back that in return sent an invasion fleet, made up of rejected CGI clips from Transformers 3. Along the way the film takes time out of its busy schedule to insult the life experiences of World War II and Afghanistan/Iraq veterans and, via a spectacularly tasteless bit of copied news footage, the victims of the London riots.
So yeah, if the trailers weren’t your first sign, rather than have the movie revolve around naval combat like the board game, and might have actually made a decent film, they chose to have it be Transformers 4, and yet achieves a level of stupidity in terms of plot and script that makes Transformers (any of them) look like Inception, Independence Day look like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Pearl Harbor look like Saving Private Ryan. Between the paper-thin premise and some of the stupidest script work and dialog I’ve seen in a long time, if ever, it had no chance of being taken seriously or providing suspense, yet never achieves any sort of camp or irony that might make it fun. Hell, there isn’t even a battleship in the movie until the last twenty minutes, with much of the film following three destroyers fight four alien craft, and two of them don’t make it five minutes after first encounter.
There are exactly two scenes in the movie that show signs of life or enjoyability, one where a group of World War II veterans lead the USS Missouri into battle, the other where an Army vet who lost both legs kicks the crap out of one of the aliens, both are in the climax, and both are only of note when compared to the rest of that proves to be a surprisingly dull movie. When a movie where and hour and a half of it is of stuff getting blown up, you know you’re in trouble when the first world I think of is boring. With a run time of over two hours, ten minutes, there is not enough premise or plot to last half of that, resulting in a movie that is more boring than it is fun or even infuriating.
This leads us to where they decided to pad it with, the actors and characters, which further hurts the film, especially since none are likable, sympathetic, or anything more than a thinly disguised cliché. First off, for those thinking Liam Neeson or Alexander Skarsgard to provide a performance that elevates the film, as either the fleet admiral or stern older brother respectively, you’re going to be disappointed, as Neeson is in the film for about ten minutes total and Skarsgard gets killed off one-third of the way through the film, leaving much of the film’s, ahem, acting, to be done by hacks and amateurs.
Taylor Kitsch, as Alex Hopper, between this and John Carter, has ensured he will never get top billing in a film again given what we see here. He isn’t helped by the fact his character is an unlikeable prick that needs to be taken down a notch, and his incompetence and hotheadedness gets dozens of people killed. Rihanna, here in her film debut as the spunky minority petty officer cliché usually handed to Michelle Rodriguez, gives a performance much like her music, tolerable so long as you tune it out, which given the shocking number of screen time she gets, is impossible. Brooklyn Decker, as the love interest/eye candy, famous for her bikini body the main selling point of a Jennifer Anniston movie last year, shows just as much skin here, and even less acting ability. The rest for the cast is a list of clichés and stereotypes a mile long, ranging from the neurotic Jewish scientist to the stoic Japanese guy speaking in Engrish, and while none reach Transformers levels of offensiveness, they all but surpass it in levels of annoyance. The result is an unlikeable and unreliable cast of cliché caricature characters that all but deserve whatever plans of extermination the aliens have in mind for us.
So given that we have a film so stupid it makes Michael Bay look like Orson Welles, and acting so bad it (almost) makes Shia LeBouef look like Sir Lawrence Oliver, is it any surprise that the special effects or cinematography aren’t really anything special either? Say what you will about Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich as filmmakers, the one thing about their movies you can almost always depend on to be good are the special effects, which might give even their worst films a few scenes worth watching for. Here however, there is nothing impressive or awe worthy about the special effects, with most of it looking clearly fake or has been done far better before.
Take the aliens for example – a bunch of albino humanoids in Iron Man suits that pilot giant ships only capable of making medium length hops over water, and have exactly three weapons at their disposal, sonic canons, spinning chainsaw balls, and missiles based off the pegs from the board game – why they kept that when they tossed out almost everything else about the source material, I do not know. None of it was designed very well, ranges from hokey to needless, and you get bored very fast watching them on-screen. Hell, I swear they reused shots for some of the scenes. Even the shots they didn’t reuse provide a sense of déjà vu as most are copied shot by shot of other movies – one example is the bit where a crashed alien vessel wrecking Hong Kong looks just like the opening scene of the meteors wrecking New York City in Armageddon. As a whole, the movie provides a mostly cartoonish repertoire of CGI barf that is either laughably bad or done far better elsewhere.
Like a lot of people, I was wondered just what Hollywood was smoking when they green lit a movie based on a children’s board game, and wondered just how dumb the movie would be, yet even I was floored by just what new levels of stupidity in cinema the film achieves. The premise is insultingly stupid, the dialogue more so, and I’m torn over what is more cartoonish, the cliché character stereotypes or the godawful CGI. It even has a laughable post credit scene trying to set up for a sequel, the possibility of which should have every one of you in a cold sweat. Overall, I think the most painful thing about watching the movie was how boring it was, as there is literally nothing to engage you or keep you interested in the film. There were people walking out an hour in just because of that! It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but that’s not for lack of trying.
As many critics have pointed out, Battleship is what happens to cinema when the works of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich make billions at that box office with their CGI laden soulless ‘popcorn’ movies: movie producers now feel we, the moviegoers, are brainless morons, and movies like this are what we want to see. The entire thing reeks of having been designed in a boardroom so much you can almost see the internal studio memos scrolling across the screen; From the casting (“Rihanna will help secure the coveted 13-22 M/F demo”) to the alien war machines (“Transformers: DotM $1.6bn gross suggests robot mod for all current properties”) to the soundtrack (“Music should be of heavier ‘rock’ variant, though familiar enough to be non-threatening: suggest STP and AC/DC”), there’s not a second of this movie that hasn’t been tweaked to squeeze the maximum number of dollars out of people who are not yet sick of Bay-Emmerich school of film-making. If this turns a significant profit, it will likely be the first of many more of such films to come, garbage for the trough of the moviegoer.
Which is why I am asking, no, begging all of you to not prove them right. Don’t go see this turd. Go see The Avengers, or go see it again if you have already. Hell, I’d rather you go see The Dictator than feed into this utterly insipid and idiotic piece of crap. For the love of good cinema, and the future of moviegoers everywhere, we must sink this Battleship.