Friday, April 27, 2012

Transformers, The Borg, And Brooklyn Decker's Breasts All Sink Battleship.

The Good: Generally decent view on the contributions of soldiers
The Bad: Terribly predictable plot, Mediocre special effects, No character development, Mediocre acting.
The Basics: As bad as one might expect, Battleship is a terribly predictable science fiction invasion movie that is so formulaic as to be utterly unwatchable.

When I heard that there was going to be a film based upon the board game Battleship, I had exceptionally low expectations. When I saw the first trailer, I was absolutely convinced the film would be a lemon. It doesn't matter that Liam Neeson appears in the film Battleship; Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (reviewed here!), which Battleship bears many similarities to, had Leonard Nimoy and other big budget special effects films try to draw viewers in with one or two quality actors. Battleship has serious flaws and Peter Berg's direction oscillates between obvious and terrible.

Fortunately, Battleship bears very little resemblance to the game upon which it is based. The game, which involves two players who cannot see one another using a grid to guess where their opponents' ships are in order to try to sink the ships, does use the "sensor blind" conceit. As well, the movie includes alien weaponry that is very similar to the pegs that are used in the game Battleship. That, actually, is one of the few clever elements in Battleship. The alien "peg" weapons bore into the Navy ships are basically cylinders like the game pegs. One of the few superlative scenes in Battleship is one where they swarm a single destroyer.

Late one night, Samantha walks into a bar where brothers Stone Hopper and Alex Hopper are out drinking. Samantha wants nothing more than a chicken burrito, so Alex - eager to impress her - breaks into the convenience store across the street and steals her one. Upset by his delinquency, Stone tells Alex that he will follow Stone into the Navy. On the eve of wargames in the Pacific, Alex tries to work up the courage to propose to Samantha, despite the fact that she is the daughter of the Admiral Shane, his commanding officer.

When the war games commence, following a particularly brutal soccer loss to the Japanese contingent, the international force - led by the Americans - encounters four alien crafts that have landed off the coast of Hawaii. Ensconced in a force field which prevents the outside from contacting them, Alex is forced to take command of the surviving ship to combat the alien threat. While on land, Samantha and a wounded former Navy officer, meet Cal near the radio transmitters that first lured the aliens to Earth. As they try to do what they can to stop the aliens, Alex and his former adversary, Nagata, strike a blow at the vessels still in water.

Battleship has a pretty standard "alien invasion" plot and this movie adds nothing new to the genre. With remarkable similarities to Battle Los Angeles (reviewed here!), Battleship presents one of the more mundane sets of alien invaders to grace the big screen. The creatures are essentially a pale copy of The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation as evidenced by the way they target the technology of the Navy, while often ignoring the organic lifeforms. The creature design of the aliens in Battleship is particularly lazy.

That said, the weaponry design for the CG special effects is watchable, though the film owes a lot of its "look" more to the Transformers franchise than the Battleship boardgame. The suits the alien invaders wear have transforming elements and the alien battleships that "hop" along the water also are in a pretty constant state of physical flux. The film rather mundanely presents both and - possibly to keep the budget down, possibly to evoke the boardgame - eliminates special effects altogether on occasion simply to present the enemy forces as abstract graphics.

As for the characters, they are all "types." Admiral Shane, briefly in the film, is the archetypal protective father and military hardass (it is rare when Liam Neeson cannot save a role!) and his daughter is little more than eye candy. Though, in current blockbuster tradition, a passing effort is made to give her some character; she is a physical therapist. This ends up being more of a plot point, which allows her to try to challenge the Lieutenant Colonel patient she is working with. Moreover, the way director Peter Berg focuses on Brooklyn Decker's breasts undermine the attempts to make her a serious character.

The main characters, however, are Stone and Alex. Stone is very much the archetypal Naval officer and Alex is a slacker bad boy who is trying to turn his life around. Alex's attempt at reforming goes poorly and his character arch is remarkably predictable. The conflict between Alex and Nagata is more formulaic than organic and the resolution to it is obvious from the moment the two first fight.

On the acting front, Battleship has decent casting, but nothing extraordinary in the way of performances. Peter MacNicol has what is essentially a cameo where he plays pretty much the same character he played on Ally McBeal and Numbers and Hamish Linklater is the comic relief with his dry wit, much like he is in virtually everything else he has been in. Alexander Skarsgard plays serious, like he pretty much always does.

But the film is led by Taylor Kitsch and he is particularly bland in the role of Alex. Battleship is characterized by Kitsch's mediocre deliveries and utter lack of charisma. Rihanna's role is dull and her supporting performance is basically an exceptionally limited role with one extended bit of dialogue that seems only in the film to appear in the trailers. And, without insulting the real-life servicemen and servicewomen who appear in the film, there are several supporting performances by people who are not actors . . . and it is obvious.

Ultimately, even going into Battleship with exceptionally low expectations will not redeem the film for anyone who has a love of movies . . . or even the desire to spend their time watching something that makes real sense.

For other films featuring Liam Neeson, please check out my reviews of:
The Dark Knight Rises
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
The Next Three Days
The A-Team
Clash Of The Titans
The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Batman Begins
Love Actually
Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Schindler's List
The Mission


For other movie reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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