Battleship review

Battleship reviewIt’s generally frowned upon in film reviews to lead off with a declarative statement like “it was great,” or “if I need information off of a terror suspect I will force them to watch this movie until they give.” Film reviews are the domain of opinion, and when people read reviews they either agree with what they hoped would be the case, or disagree and assume I am a fool (which is fair enough). A few stay for the full review, but they are the exception. With Battleship I am going to break that convention, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

Battleship is not a good film. It is not a clever film, and the explosions are not all that spectacular. The acting is also painfully bad on almost every level.

That being said, I kindly ask you to continue reading as I make my case for why this movie is a new level of dumb. Not because I feel I need to convince you of something, but because dammit, this movie owes me.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a loser, sleeping on his brother Stone’s (Alexander Skarsgard) couch and looking for work. Then one day, the stunningly beautiful Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) walks into Alex’s local Hawaiian dive bar and orders a chicken burrito. Things go badly.

Fast forward seven years. Despite what we assume is a criminal record, Alex has somehow managed to join his brother in the Navy and rise through the ranks to Lieutenant. But despite his potential, Alex is a maverick. He’s a loose cannon! He operates under all the stereotypes that you would expect: He gets in pointless and inexplicable fights with other officers, shows up late to major events, and probably has a problem with authority. That last one never really comes up, but it is expected with this type of archetype.

Battleship filmOf course, the lovely Samantha, who Alex is now in a relationship with and plans to marry, is actually the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), the Fleet Commander. Twist! He wants to ask for her hand in marriage, but he may be about to get thrown out of the Navy. Then aliens attack.

A few years earlier, scientists (no particular field of study was ever mentioned, so they are just “scientists”) had discovered an Earth-like planet in the cosmos. The scientists then construct an array of satellite dishes feeding into an orbital satellite that beams a signal to the planet. The aliens follow the signal back.

The first thing you just have to accept is that the writers Jon and Erich Hoeber seem to have an active dislike for the conventions of science. Sure, that is common with movies like this, as pesky “facts” tend to die a horrible death in the face of plot convenience, but Battleship takes that up a notch.

Some films at least have the courtesy to make up a reason for things, like how a radio signal can travel fast enough to reach the far-flung nether regions of the galaxy, but Battleship can’t be bothered. It has its hands full with its loose cannon hero, who is participating in Naval exercises when the aliens decide to cordon off the Hawaiian islands for reasons that are supposed to be mysterious, but end up being frustratingly dumb.

There is a checklist of action movie cliches Battleship follows: Fast talking comic-relief guy that borders on annoying? Check. Rogue hero who is his own worst enemy? Check. AC/DC song playing during a montage? Check. It’s all there. There is also a heavy reliance on coincidence in the plot which further dumbs it down. There are almost no surprises to be had in the plot, and from the first moment you can take a solid guess as to what will happen.

Why bother with 3D when you can have 1D

I know several people who were alarmed from the start about the adaptation of a board game into a big budget action movie. Most notably, they were worried about how Battleship would choose to portray the original nature of the grid based board game. Oddly, the film actually takes a fairly clever approach to this. Or perhaps the bar was just set so low by that point that it earned a pass.

Regardless, the film’s heritage is the least of its problems.

Battleship AlienThe story feels as if it was written by children, and the cast is barely up to that challenge. Almost without exception, they are bad. Kitsch tries, but he doesn’t have the right type of charisma to save what is a flat and predictable character. There is a great role out there waiting for Kitsch, but this isn’t it. The character needed humor, and that is not something Kitsch excels at.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the acting front is Neeson. He isn’t bad, but that is primarily due to the fact that he may be in the film for less than five minutes, despite his title billing. He’s even featured on the poster. But even when he is on screen, he seemed almost reluctant to be there, as if he knows what he has done in supporting this film and he hopes you will forgive him.

But a special shout out goes to Rhianna as Gunner’s Mate Cora Raikes. She is not just bad — she is tremendously bad. Both she and Brooklyn Decker are in the film to sex it up a bit, and while neither are good (Decker is trapped by some seriously ridiculous scenarios and dialog), Rhianna is painful to watch. You almost feel bad for her.

Each of the characters is so one-dimensional that it is almost sad. You expect this in action movies of this ilk, but director Peter Berg even manages to outdo the one-dimensional nature of Michael Bay’s characters. This film makes the characters in Transformers seem deep by comparison.

And then there are the aliens

Man, the aliens suck. I rarely say that about big, explosion-friendly aliens, but they are never well defined. Both in action and in description, they are never given a clear morality. They are obviously the bad guys, but whether the aliens are somewhat complex beings perhaps laden with a touch of guilt, they see us as beneath notice, or they are just badly written is never clear.

There is one scene that perfectly sums up the film. During the initial attack, the aliens launch a wheel-like device into Honolulu. It lands in the middle of a little league baseball game, and the device seems poised to attack a child. It then recognizes the child as a non-threat and moves on… to collapse a freeway, presumably murdering dozens of people. Why it does this and what the results are is never again discussed. Maybe it was cutting off lines of transport, maybe it just wanted to break stuff.

Battleship alien devices

The digital effects, as you might expect, are the star of the show, but the scope is never that impressive and there is no emotion attached to them. This is a direct result of the poor use of the alien invaders. Their lack of mustache-twirling acts of evil makes their encounters with humanity far less interesting and threatening, and their ambivalence has them sidelined for much of the movie anyway.

The aliens are also comparatively weak. In their first appearance, they prove their vulnerability in a pathetic and bumbling plot contrivance that is so ridiculous it takes a while to actually understand what just happened. It would be like a Predator chasing someone then stumbling, falling, and scraping their knee so badly they need a few moments before resuming the chase. 

Despite their ability to travel through space, some impressive personal armor (that looks more than a little like Master Chief’s armor from Halo), and massive ships with cool weapons, they aren’t that much more powerful than our current military. Again, that just robs from the tension. This breeds a distinct lack of any real consequences for the characters, which leads to Battleship’s biggest problem: it is dull.

There are large chunks of monotony to wade through, and it all builds to an unremarkable climax. In a movie like this, you at least expect to get a thrill as the forces of the ‘Merican military deliver the awaited justice over evil. That isn’t there, which is just one final note in a symphony of meh.

Battleship Conclusion

Battleship isn’t a broken film, which is sort of sad. Despite the terrible acting, the film does exactly what it wants to do. That just happens to be slow and dull witted. You expect a certain level of “turn your brain off” action with these types of movies, and that is perfectly fine. If you go that route, however, you need to make sure the characters are at least fun to watch, and the action is exciting. That isn’t the case here. The plot is just silly, and the dialog does the bad acting no favors. But even though the film is like getting punched by stupid, then kicked with dumb while on the ground, the one unforgivable sin of Battleship is that it just isn’t that interesting. The narrative is muddled, and the tension is nonexistent. It also doesn’t help that it keeps one upping itself with facepalm moment after facepalm moment.

I expected more from Berg. More than just a pale imitation of a Michael Bay film, at least. But that’s all Battleship really is. It is a construction as much as a film, borrowing from dozens of others movies, taking the elements it needs and plugging them into the formula, and yet doing them badly. Battleship just lacks that spark that made its brother and sister action movies work. Good luck to the cast and crew when they receive their well earned Razzie nominations for the worst of 2012!

Movies & TV

Marvel’s streaming Loki series gets a plot summary and a showrunner

A Rick & Morty writer will oversee Marvel's Loki series for Disney Plus. Tom Hiddleston is expected to reprise his role for the show, while the series' premise offers a few hints as to how Loki might return from the dead.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Home Theater

They were robbed! From Crowe to Pacino, 10 times Oscar voters got it wrong

With the 91st Oscars rapidly approaching, now is a fine time to look back at several Oscar-worthy performances that were completely ignored by the Academy, as well as others that were nominated and astoundingly denied the little naked…
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

How Avengers: Infinity War’s Oscar-nominated VFX team made Thanos a movie star

The purple-skinned Thanos proved to be a breakout character in Avengers: Infinity War, thanks to the work of actor Josh Brolin and visual effects studios Digital Domain and Weta. Here's how they brought him to life and earned the film an…
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: Yesterday, Tolkien, Triple Frontier, and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's trailers for Yesterday, Tolkien, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Triple Frontier.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, Lorena, and more.

Alita: Battle Angel’s big opening weekend leads weak holiday box office

New box-office champion Alita: Battle Angel outperformed expectations with its big premiere and positive reviews from critics, but Presidents' Day weekend is still off to a slow start.

FA Cup: Watch Chelsea vs. Manchester United with ESPN Plus 7-day free trial

Chelsea and Manchester United are facing off in an exciting FA Cup match, with the fifth round - a tie match - slated for Monday. Die-hard fans of English football can stream the game anywhere at any time with ESPN Plus, and here's how to…
Movies & TV

Netflix completes its breakup with Marvel, cancels The Punisher, Jessica Jones

Two of Netflix's last-remaining Marvel shows have been canceled by the video streaming service. The Punisher is done after two seasons and Jessica Jones will be finished after its still-unreleased third season.