Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Battleship (2012)

As tempted as I was to copy and paste my review of Battle: Los Angeles from last year here, I have decided to evaluate Battleship on its own terms, howsoever scant (read: non-existent) those terms may be. The fundamental difference between a game of any kind and a film is that you can't play the film. A film needs a premise, a plot and some themes to engage the viewer. It needs characters that you feel invested in and/or empathise with. A flashy film without these is like watching someone else play a game. It's boring, no matter how loud the explosions or how snazzy the special effects are. Battleship greatest folly is that it falls in that trap, and how. Its plot makes no sense. The script is a mere convenience to shoehorn senseless action and somehow fit in the format of the game. Cardboard has more depth than the characters. Basically, even by bad movie standards, this is a really bad movie.

You have a hero (Taylor Kitsch), an intelligent naval officer who has no aim in life (do they ever?). He looks like a cross between Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hardy but unfortunately, has none of the acting skills. He has an overbearing brother who is a bundle of bad American army cliches (why Alexander Skarsgard, why?). He likes this hottie, who is also a physical therapist with a heart of gold (but not enough 'impact' when running a la Megan Fox). She has a daddy (Liam Neeson) who is barely there, and better for it. Then there is the token black woman (Rihanna) to deliver "clever" lines like, "Damn!", "Boom!" and "Ain't that sweet?" There's also a Kentucky white guy who has the only remotely likable character around and a Japanese bloke who starts out fighting the hero, but then becomes his best friend.

So where's the plot you ask? Well, an alien ship lands and decides it will only attack what it sees as a threat. Despite all its advance weaponry, it cannot see beyond line of sight and hence, must attack on instinct, which is convenient because the American warships can't see them on radar either. So it's all about "hit and miss", conveniently incorporating the game's main angle. Why are they here? Do you really care to know?

At an exasperating 131 minutes, I really felt like going for that gun and shooting the editor. The film is far too talky for its own good, which may have been okay if the talk made any sense, but the dialogue delivery is so poor, that you can barely make head or tail of it, let alone evaluate its quality. There are a few decent lines here and there. However, looking for those is like looking for a strand of hay in a bag full of needles. It hurts.

I have a lot of respect for people like Michael Bay and Rolland Emmerich. They really know how to make a silly film entertaining. In all fairness, they have more hits than misses, and for good reason. They know what the audience expects of them, and more often than not, they deliver. Unfortunately, try as he might, Peter Berg is no Bay. He failed in Hancock. He failed in The Kingdom, and he fails monumentally here. His directorial skills are practically non-existent. His film is all over the place. He has no control over it, and from the look of things, he doesn't seem to have tried too hard to avoid that.

The patriotism pervading through the film results in serious overkill and makes Indian war movies like Border look mellow in comparison. Cringe-inducing is a word that often comes to mind. Japanese and American sailors playing against each other in Hawaii. American hero versus Japanese stud. And worst of all, there is a scene where the hero is looking helplessly at a WWII battleship and wondering use it against the enemy and in the background, one after another, ancient looking war veterans appear out of thin air to drive the ship, and the hero, to victory. The special effects are okay, nothing great really. The overdose of CGI makes everything look artificial. How I missed the model based realistic destruction of Independence Day and Titanic. Now that shit really made me go, "Holy fuck!" Unfortunately, nothing like that is in sight here.

Ultimately, Battleship is the ultimate American big budget cliche of a film; it's loud, silly and mindless. However, it is also deathly boring and you couldn't give a rat's ass about what the hell is going on. It's pathetic excuse for character building in the first hour just makes you long for the explosions, and when those come, you can't help but think, "Is that it?" Do yourself a favour. Ditch this and play the Hasbro game instead. Or better still, pop some corn, rent Independence Day, and have your mind blown all over again.

Rating: 1/5

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