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Battleship: Lots of boom and could be worse, but don't exactly rush to see it.
In my experience, there are three types of ... let's say "sub par" movies.
- There's the "So bad it's good" movie that becomes ridiculous enough to enjoy and laugh at when they're trying to scare me, thrill me, or portray any kind of emotion other than "let's fight!" (The Mortal Kombat movies are like that for me at times. Particularly the first one.)
- There's the B-movie that knows it's a B-movie, aspires to be nothing but what it is and allows you to simply have fun, knowing that you're not really getting anything deeper than what you see out of it. (Reign of Fire was mostly this for me. It knew what it was and didn't try to be anything else and I simply shut off my brain and allowed myself to enjoy it.)
- Then there's the B-movie that is clearly trying too hard to be something deeper. It loses you in the mess it's trying to convince you is an emotional roller-coaster. (Elektra was like that for me. Which is too bad because it was the same director as Reign of Fire. More sadly, it was the same director as The X-Files: Fight the Future which was superb in my book.)
Of course, Battleship is almost another category. Almost. It seems to bounce around between categories. Mostly it tends to be a B-movie that's trying too hard to be something else. But at other times, it can be just enjoyable enough. But there aren't quite enough of those times for my book.
But first, the story:
The story starts in 2005 with scientists. Or rather, the movie starts that way. It takes a while to actually get to the story. Anyway, these scientists are talking about how they recently discovered a planet that they felt was a good candidate for life like us. So they set up an overly elaborate communications system to send a message out that way because, hey, what else ya gonna do?
Anyway, we cut to our actual main characters. And the story starts in a bar. Clearly the screenwriters were writing what they knew at this point.
Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating Alex's birthday when Alex decides to do something completely ridiculous and macho to impress a girl—Sam—(does it really matter who plays her?) and he ends up embarrasing his brother so bad that Stone declares Alex is going to join the navy and serve with him. And as we all know, that constitutes a legally binding contract.
Then, who knows how much later, Alex is dating Sam, and he and his brother are participating in some multinational wargame maneuvers along with Sam's father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). As they begin, group of unidentified falling objects splash down and we think to ourselves "Hey! The boredom is over!"
Oh how wrong you are. Sort of.
It still takes a while before anything interesting happens. But at least things are in motion.
Director Peter Berg (Hancock and Friday Night Lights) has clearly graduated from the Michael Bay School of Directing. The action is over frenetic, very loud, and if you sit up front, be sure to wear rain gear because it seems to sprinkle testosterone on the first two rows.
And the aliens could have been much more interesting. There were a couple of moments in the movie where it actually looked like there might be something more to these aliens than "we spent untold resources just to come out here and beat up the little neighbor kid for his lunchmoney."
As a lead actor, Taylor Kitsch leaves anything to be desired. He's got the charisma of a bowl of unsugared cereal. It does the job when you're hungry, but you don't exactly crave it.
And if you're hoping for something from Liam Neeson to redeem the movie, he's hardly in it. And remember, he was in The A-Team. For me, that's another one that can scratch an itch at times, but Taken it's not. Nor is Battleship.
Now, let's talk about the idea to use aliens. I can understand it. A few years ago I read some industry news regarding the decision. They were hoping to avoid locking themselves into battling a known Earth culture. And seriously, if they had, they would have had to really prove that they were more than so many other generic war movies. But now they have to prove that they're more than so many Earth invasion movies. And they kinda missed the mark there.
I will say that there was one scene where the conflict actually played out very much like the gameplay from the Hasbro/Milton Bradley game. And it wasn't horrible. They used some questionable pseudo-tech, but, you know, suspension of disbelief and all. But when you see that scene, you start to realize just how boring a movie could be if they did that the entire time. Not that a good screenwriter couldn't make it work. Hunt for Red October and such. I'm saying these screenwriters couldn't make it work.
And seriously, for a movie that is based on the game "Battleship", you couldn't figure out a single "You sank my battleship" quip?
Throughout the movie, I kept thinking "This one could make a great RiffTrax." So maybe some of you might want to wait until that happens.
(Oh, and there's also a scene at the end of the credits. Not a little tiny tag. A full blown scene. Clearly they're hoping for another movie. And since this is the kind of movie that everyone knows will be ... "less good" but will probably still bring in a fair amount of money, they may just get the chance. If so, let's hope someone sugars Taylor Kitsch's cereal.)
For me, this one gets a 5 / 10. And that may be a bit generous.
But what do you think?
Battleship is rated PG-13 for plenty of sci-fi action violence (quite bloodless), a bit of language and a little sensuality regarding Brooklyn Decker's character.
Oh, and I forgot to mention in my first pass that I was a little surprised though not at all disappointed that the filmmakers did not decide to foist a crappy 3D version of this thing on us. It's exactly the kind of movie that makes studios say "Hmm, people probably won't see this thing in droves. So what can we do to artificially inflate our Box Office take? I know! Up the price of each ticket by making an unconvincing pop-up version and telling them it's 3D! Genius!"