Monday, May 21, 2012

Movie Review: "Battleship" by Derek Clem

"Battleship" (2012) PG-13
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Erich & Jon Hoeber
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd, 
Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker
Run Time: 131 mins

You may have noticed by now that we Slackers respond to blockbuster movies in a visceral way. Sure we throw on a sports coat with patches on the elbows every now and then to dabble in the intellectual strengths of a movie, but we do that mostly during the Oscar season. We want our summer movies to have that rockin’ quality we speak so much about. To us, looking at the technical proficiency of a blockbuster, in most cases, has us asking questions like “How sweet was the action?”, “Were those believable special effects?”, or “How epic were the explosions?”. In regards to action, special effects, and explosions, "Battleship" passes effortlessly. So the real question is, does this summer blockbuster provide the viewer with anything extra? Find out after the cut.


Here is the most basic way I can describe the plot:

Earth scientists send out signals to outer space in an effort to communicate with any possible living life outside of our planet. Outside life hears those signals. Outside life heads for our planet to attack us. Just your classic aliens coming to attack Earth story.

Because this is a Hasbro movie I feel okay comparing it to the Transformers films. Speaking strictly action sequences I would say this movie has the amount you would find in the Transformers films. However, where action in the Transformers films felt disorienting, the use of wider shots in Battleship gives the viewer a stable understanding of the high adrenalin action on screen. Peter Berg is able to summon the effective parts of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich disaster movies and marry them together, echoing each of their styles. Berg’s ability to shift genres from film to film is almost Kubrickian on a mainstream level. For "Battleship" he smoothly dives into Bay/Emmerich blockbuster sensibilities and in some ways more effectively.

Here is where "Battleship" pleasantly surprised me. The movie displays miles and miles of heart within its supporting characters and use of real veterans in the cast. One notable scene with miles and miles of heart goes as follows…

***SPOILERS***

There comes a point where we have no Destroyer ships left on the water to take on the Alien ships. So what do we do? We decide to use the 70-year-old USS Missouri Battleship to save the day. The ship is a working museum today. Literally! Taylor Kitsch’s character, Alex Hopper, requests the help of USS Missouri Veterans in the area to get the ship started and help in the fight against the aliens. Missouri Veterans go as far back to WWII. They gladly accept. Cue the AC/DC music for an epic gearing up montage! The crew begins to turn the museum back into a Battleship! They power the lights, ready the ammunition, one crew member even knocks over a museum vending machine placing capitalist greed right where it belongs! They cut the ship loose, hit the engines, and head out to blast the space aliens off our planet. The Americana present in this scene hit me just as hard as the action climax from "The Avengers". Only this time there were tears in my eyes. So Epic!

***END SPOILERS***

The movie also hits some nostalgic notes as well. There’s a scene where both sides, the humans and the aliens, are in the dark on each others locations. We have to use tsunami warning buoys to track the movement of the water to get a location on alien ships. These buoys create a grid for our heroes to map out where to hit the opposing side. The scene is just like watching people play the Battleship board game.

Another fun board game tie in is the alien ammunition. Their ammunition looks just like the pegs used in the game.

So what’s the problem, you ask. Why is this movie getting such a bad rap from everyone? The acting. The acting is atrocious. I don’t think things are going to work out for this Taylor Kitsch guy. He plays the lead in the film. The way he’s been thrown into so many high budget actioners you’d think he’s slated to be the next Sam Worthington. Not the case. He hasn’t yet pumped out any gold on his own merit. He survives because of what’s surrounding him in the films he’s involved in. Where he survived John Carter through classic storytelling, in Battleship he survives due to great action sequences and the miles and miles of heart that shows up through the supporting characters. While Kitsch survives, concerning the box-office the films do not. I’m thankful I was able to navigate through the poor acting and find myself able to relish in what’s really important in a summer movie about a child’s board game. I was there for the action and explosions and that’s what I got, and to my surprise I was also served a healthy helping of Heart. Miles and miles of heart!

And on a final note, I am sad to report that not one person in the whole movie utters the line “You sank my Battleship!” Even the only member of the cast with the acting ability, star power, and caliber to speak such a line, Liam Neeson, does not grace us with the classic exclamation.