Thursday, May 24, 2012

“Battleship” – Mindless entertainment.

Is there any place in history that you wish you could be a fly on the wall to observe the event? Maybe the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or the killing of Julius Caesar, or the night Doc Brown invented time travel? How about the room where the idea for Battleship (the movie) was first pitched? I can’t even begin to imagine how that conversation went, but I feel like it involved raucous laughter at first, followed by a lot of drinking, and ending with a bunch of studio execs shaking hands and patting each other on the back. I actually feel sorry for them because as far as summer popcorn flicks go, Battleship is extremely fun and entertaining. I’ll go on record right now and say that I would watch it again. Unfortunately, it’s going to fail due to opening between The Avengers and Men in Black III. But, as much as I enjoyed watching it, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t torch this movie for being so preposterous and nonsensical that “written in crayon” doesn’t even begin to describe it. So if all you are looking for in a summer blockbuster is just that - a summer blockbuster - stop reading now, buy a ticket and some popcorn, and go enjoy yourself because I’m lighting the match as we speak.

(Here is your spoiler alert. You’ve been warned.)

Battleship is the textbook definition of a summer blockbuster – ridiculous plot, forgettable acting, top-notch special effects, and bombastic action. As I watched the movie, I tried really hard to keep my brain from engaging in “thinking,” but the film made it impossible. Right out of the gate, they tell us that in 2005 a habitable planet is discovered circling another star and, in an explosion of creativity, we name it Planet G. NASA builds a set of satellite dishes and an orbiting satellite to beam a signal to the planet in an attempt at communications. That’s all fine until they tell us that the satellite will amplify the signal, which doesn’t make any sense because light travels at light speed and can’t be made to go faster. Then, they tell us how far away is the planet, which means that the aliens couldn’t have shown up in 2012, as the movie states (just seven years later), simply due to the fact that the signal wouldn’t even have reached their planet yet. You might think I’m nitpicking a little here, but the obvious answer to this problem is to just leave out the details. All they had to do was boil it down to “we found a habitable planet and have been listening for signs of intelligence” and it would keep people like me happy. But that’s just the beginning of the nonsense they ask the audience to believe.

After giving the finger to Einstein, the film delivers plot points as if it is trying to be the textbook example of things happening because the plot says they do, not because they have any logic or reason. For example, as the five alien ships streak towards the Earth, one of them smashes into a satellite, causing the ship to crash to the Earth. The destroyed ship just happens to be the aliens’ communication ship, which forces the rest of the plot to be the aliens commandeering the human setup from the introduction scene so they can communicate to their home world. The two immediate questions you will ask are 1) why did they only bring five ships and 2) why would they need a special communications ship? The answer to 1) is that in the board game of Battleship, each player started with five ships. The answer to 2) is – wait, what? Are the writers seriously telling us that this space-faring race doesn’t have communication systems on their individual ships or that they forgot to tell their commanders where they were going? The nonsense goes even further when we later learn that this is just the scout party that is a prelude to a full-fledged invasion. Seriously, what? If this is just a scout party, wouldn’t they use even a small modicum of stealth rather than just blasting through the atmosphere? And if it’s just a scout party, why would they even bother landing on the planet, putting themselves in danger? Like I said, these things are done simply because some dumb writer says they should.

The insanity doesn’t stop there. Besides the absurdity I just described, the entire story is filled with contradictions. You will be asked to accept that the aliens view Aegis Missile Cruisers as threats – and only when the ships fire – but they go out of their way to destroy parked helicopters and highway pillars. Yes, highway pillars are more of a threat than giant ships bristling with guns and missiles. You will be asked to believe that advanced alien technology can only detect human ships during the day, that ships that flew through space can only hop across water, that the battleship U.S.S. Missouri carries fuel and lots of live ammunition even though it has been a floating museum for more than ten years, that a 500+ foot-long boat can tip straight up in the air and sink in less than 100 feet of water, and much, much (much) more. You’ll even be asked to believe that the main character is about to be court-marshaled out of the Navy for no reason ever explained to us.

Speaking of the main character, Taylor Kitsch is probably close to done as an actor. Between John Carter and Battleship, he is the lead actor in over $450 million dollars over two films that are and will be, respectively, flops in terms of domestic box office receipts. The failures are not completely his fault, but he is easily the most wooden actor this side of Hayden Christiansen. Though in Battleship, he isn’t the only one turning in a dreadful performance. Between Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, and even Liam Neeson, they all acted as if they got paid in advance (to be fair, Neeson wasn’t given more than a few minutes of screen time and wasn’t nearly as bad as the rest of them). Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the cast is that Rihanna’s character doesn’t die.

In spite all of that, the movie was still fun to watch and runs much faster than its 131 minute run-time suggests. The special effects are flawless, Decker runs around the film in nothing but small, tight clothing, and, in what is the only clever part of the film, the board game is insinuate through a scene where the crew is trying to sink the alien ships by firing at coordinates on a gridded map derived from conspicuously placed tidal buoys. Trust me the unintentional comedy of this scene will have you laughing out loud. Of course, you may already be laughing at all of the other nonsense in this movie.

Rating: Ask for two dollars back. While entertaining, nobody ever says “You sunk my battleship.” In a movie as ridiculous as this, that should have been easy.

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