In 1925, a film was released in Russia that changed the face of movie-making forever. Directed by the legendary Sergei Eisenstein, this silent film told the story of a mutiny aboard a Russian battleship in 1905. It is well-known for the iconic, and still powerful, Odessa Steps sequence, which helped place the word montage into the lexicon of film theory. Today, it is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. This film was called “The Battleship Potemkin”.
“Battleship”, released one week ago, is NOT a remake of “The Battleship Potemkin” (as if remaking that film made any sense to begin with). Instead, it’s a film based on an 1980s board game from Hasbro, the company behind the “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” toy lines. Yes, ladies and gents, the latest summer blockbuster of 2012 is based on a fucking BOARD GAME! Or should I say inspired….. since there are no characters or story in the “Battleship” game. Now, I’ve never played it, but from what I know, the objective of the game was for one player to predict the coordinates of the other player’s fleet of ships and destroy it entirely. I think you’re supposed to yell “You sunk my battleship!” (which sounds like a double entendre to me) when you lose.
You know Hollywood’s desperate for fresh ideas when they seek inspiration from board games. Perhaps in the next few years, there might be a “Monopoly” film. I could imagine the high concept for that (“It’s Mad Men meets Boardwalk Empire”). Or maybe there might be a “Snakes and Ladders” film coming out as well. Imagine the high concept for that (“It’s Snakes on a Plane meets Ladder 49”). I could go on and on. But I won’t.
Anyhoo, with the box-office successes of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and Michael Bay’s trilogy of “Transformers” films, movie studios were looking for the next 80s novelty to adapt into a big-budget blow-em-up summer blockbuster – or a shitty family movie like “The Smurfs”. Why “Battleship” was chosen is beyond me, but the only reason I can think of is its title – (Cue movie-trailer guy voice here) BATTLESHIP. The title itself conjures something bold, dynamic and dramatic in the mind of the viewer. Had it not been based on a Hasbro board game, you would assume that “Battleship” was a film in the vein of classic Naval action-thrillers like “The Hunt for Red October” and “Crimson Tide”. But it’s not. It’s an ALIEN INVASION FILM set in the sea! And it co-stars everyone’s favourite good-girl-gone-bad, Rihanna!
Sergei Eisenstein is probably rolling in his grave right about now.
Seven years ago, NASA discovered a planet similar to Earth. They called it Planet G. A signal is transmitted from a communications array in Hawaii to the planet. Meanwhile, Alex Hopper, the hero of our story, breaks into a store, steals a chicken burrito (I shit you not!), and gets tasered by the police. Why would he do something so asinine, you may ask? Oh, to impress Samantha Shane, the daughter of U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Shane. (Cue facepalm here). Older brother Stone Hopper is pissed off at Alex’s reckless attitude and forces him to join the U.S. Navy.
Seven years later, Alex becomes a lieutenant on the USS John Paul Jones, while Stone is a commanding officer on the USS Sampson. Alex and Samantha are a couple now, and they do that tirelessly cliched scenario where they make out on a beach in the sunset. Also, he wants to ‘pop the question’ to Samantha, but has yet to get past the obstacle that is her daddy. Meanwhile, five alien ships from Planet G respond to NASA’s signal. One crashes in Hong Kong, and proceeds to BLOW SHIT UP, while the other four crash-land in the water near Hawaii. Of course, the John Paul Jones and the Sampson investigate. Their attempt to establish contact proves futile as the alien ships proceed to BLOW SHIT UP! What’s the reason behind the alien attack? Will Alex become more responsible, now that he’s staring danger in the face? Will Rihanna sing that annoying-as-fuck song “Birthday Cake” to force the aliens to retreat? And will Chris Brown make a guest appearance to sing in the remix? All these questions, and more, may be answered in “Battleship” (cue movie-trailer guy voice AND facepalm here).
Alex Hopper – Taylor Kitsch
Stone Hopper – Alexander Skarsgard
Samantha Shane – Brooklyn Decker
Admiral Shane – Liam Neeson
Cora Raikes – Rihanna
MY THOUGHTS: Peter Berg, director of “The Rundown” and “Hancock”, clearly studied the films of Michael Bay in order to make “Battleship”. From the music video-like camerawork to the stylized action sequences, the film feels as if Bay had his
money-grubbing hands all over it. Even the scenes are reminiscent of Michael Bay films (the shot of outer space with the lens flare at the top-right of the frame; the Pentagon scene with the guys at the table deliberating “the next course of action”; the medium shot of the main actress in a bikini top etc. etc.). And I must admit that the film is mindless…. just like (nearly) everything from Michael Bay. But enough about Mr. Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles. Let’s talk about “Battleship”.
“Battleship” has its good and bad points. For starters, the visual effects of the film are SUPERB. The alien ships and its armor-wearing occupants look fierce and menacing, and the high-tech weapons that they use are BAD-ASS!! For example, there’s a large metal ball which literally rolls through and destroys anything metallic in its sight. It is the most awesomest thing I have ever seen – in “Battleship”. And believe it or not, the film has an actual three-act structure. It doesn’t feel like the second and third acts are combined into a seamless number of set pieces without any indication of a dramatic reversal in the film (*cough* Transformers 2 & 3 *cough*). Our hero, who starts off as a total asshole, shows some character development as he takes charge and acts like a leader for the first time in his life. Honestly, I didn’t completely buy into it, but for what it’s worth, it works.
In terms of its bad points, the dialogue is often cheesy, cliched, and laughable. The acting was so-so, and there were no stand-out performances. Not even Rihanna, who does her best with the few lines that she’s given, stands out in the film. The plot of the film, ridiculous as it is, is taken way too seriously. And speaking of the plot, it’s never really stated why the aliens invade Earth in the first place, and why they seek to destroy anything in their way. And finally, there are cliches galore in this film – the main one being the “stop and stare” scenario in which the individual stands still like a dumb-ass when an alien mechanism is heading straight at him, utters something like “What the hell?” or “Oh shit!” and is then DECIMATED. Why doesn’t he just fucking run?! Jeez! Finally, I must mention one scene in which our heroes are looking at a computer screen and calling out the current coordinates of the USS John Paul Jones and the alien ships. As an homage of sorts to the actual “Battleship” board game in which the film ripped its title from, this scene is both smart and dumb – a rare feat in summer blockbusters.
Ultimately and surprisingly, despite its many flaws, I had fun with “Battleship”. It’s the type of film in which you’re required to leave your brains at the door, sit back and experience 2 hours of explosions, flashy special effects, Oscar-unworthy acting and stylized, super slo-mo. Then, when the film is over and you put your brains back into your head, you’ll be asking yourself “What the fuck did I just watch?!” In other words, it is what it is. A mindless summer blockbuster. Nothing more, nothing less.
SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? If you like your summer movies with a slice of intelligence, look elsewhere. If you couldn’t care less about great acting and a well-written script, and you love to see things go “BOOM”, then feel free to watch “Battleship”. Getting hammered before viewing it is optional.
MY RATING – 2 1/2 out of 5 stars (“See it if you really have to”)