Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna
Written by: Eric Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Directed by: Peter Berg
It’s not as bad as Transformers so…um…it’ll always have that I guess.
The comparison between the two is inevitable as Battleship is another movie produced by HASBRO in an attempt to create the same kind of money making machine they have with their Bay-directed Transformers series. And even though it’s directed by Peter Berg and not Michael “born without a soul and okay with it” Bay, the feel of Battleship is virtually identical. The special effects, the sweeping slow mo shots, the cast (lots of veteran actors and up and comers with a peppering of indie staples to add flavour), it all feels like it’s straight out of the old Dark of the Moon playbook.
This quasi-sequel feel is compounded even more by the film’s premise. You see the movie is based on the classic boardgame of the same name. However, that game was about two armies of equal standing fighting each other blindly. This is a movie about alien robots invading earth (OK, aliens who control robots invading earth, happy?). The fact that HASBRO decided to make another film based on a completely different property from Transformers but then chose to alter said property so that it resembled Transformers as much as humanly possible shows that they have a disturbing lack of confidence in their non “Killer Robot” based material. Is this going to be a trend in their future adaptations? Would they add Killer Robots to a My little Pony movie? To a Jem and the Holograms movie? Will the upcoming film based on the boardgame Ouija be about contacting the spirit of overly complicated CG killing machines?
So yeah, I was pretty skeptical going in. However even with all that baggage I found myself mildly impressed by the film’s opening scenes. I was even smiling a little as the movie put all the elements in place for its inevitable “Navy vs Aliens” showdown promised in all of the promotional material. Yes, it feels very much like a Transformers movie but, perhaps due to the hand of Peter Berg, it actually works. The unfunny comedy scenes are kind of funny, the hard luck loser hero (played by Canuck Taylor Kitsch) is surprisingly likeable, the hot chicks (Decker and Rihanna who makes an impressive debut) are genuinely interesting. I was floored. This feeling of surprise continued for me as the film flash-forwarded five years later, where our now less-of-a-loser hero has joined the Navy and is taking part in a massive international Naval War Games. I was hopeful. Despite all my reservations I was really liking these characters and I was pleased that it felt like a real story and not just a series of obligatory establishment scenes. Unlike a lot of special effects driven blockbusters it actually felt like there was a reason to watch even before the aliens arrived.
But then, unfortunately, the Aliens did arrive. And while humanity may have survived the attack, the screenplay didn’t.
It’s a common dilemma among Alien invasion movies. How do you have humans win in a battle of Humans vs. Aliens when the Aliens, having traveled across the Galaxy, are obviously vastly superior to us technology wise. Different Alien invasion films have handled it different ways but most seem to go with a variation of the War of the Worlds technique where it’s some sort of glitch in the Alien’s intelligence/biology that causes their downfall. In War it was the flu, in Signs it was an allergy to H2O, in Independance Day it was a computer virus (seriously?) it’s all varients on the same thing, the only way to beat an Alien is if the Alien doesn’t plan ahead. It’s annoying but I don’t see a way around it. We want to watch Alien invasion movies and we want humans to win. That means we have to suspend disbelief some.
But there’s suspension of disbelief and there’s are you fucking kidding me? and, unfortunately, as soon as the Aliens in Battleship land they hit AYFKM territory before the water’s even settled. The invaders can travel at light speed but their weaponry is laughable. There’s not a laser among them. Instead their weapons of choice are a series of complicated looking but easily spotted (and slow) explosives. Their radar doesn’t work on Navy ships. Their high tech battle suits don’t seem much stronger than your average bouncer and they’re trouble-spotting technology has a glitch in it which makes it impossible to spot trouble.
But the best, for me, is their force field technology. You see, they create a massive force field in order to protect themselves while they try to call home for reinforcements, but when they put the field up they actually trap themselves in the same domed area as the Navy. So…they never though of adjusting the size of the force field when those plucky humans start fighting back? Or, say, bringing the field down on the middle part of a Navy destroyer and cutting the sucker in half? I don’t mean to be a back seat invader but since your war-based race has no advanced weaponry maybe you should consider some more proactive battle tactics. Here’s a thought, how about moving to a less soldier populated part of the ocean?
As the IQ of the movie’s villains drops, so does that of everyone else in the film until the whole thing goes from being a lot better than Transformers to just being moderately better than Transformers. And trust me, a moderate step up from Transformers ain’t much to brag about. I can’t say that it’s a horrible film and I’m even a little sorry that it’s bombing so badly when it’s HASBRO predecessors have done so incredibly well, but at the end of the day there’s only so much you can do with a broken model and this films insistence on following that model eventually leads to its downfall, despite the fact that it’s more successful with it than others have been.
Okay, that should do it for now. Join me in a few days for a round up which will include Chernobyl Diaries, Marley, The Dictator and the next big summer movie Snow White and the Huntsman.