Thursday, August 23, 2012

DVD Review- "Battleship"

When I first saw the trailer for "Battleship" three words came to mind- Transformers at Sea. And while the final product isn't precisely the same movie as "Transformers," it's close enough to a kissing-cousin that one could easily be persuaded into thinking that it is another overhyped Michael Bay production. The similarities were enough to keep me away from "Battleship" while it was on the big screen- and I'm not so sure I didn't waste my time seeing it on my own television.

"Battleship" starts off with an interesting premise when, in 2005,  NASA discovers a "Goldilocks" planet (the conditions are "just right" for human life), gives it the designation "Planet G" and sends a powerful signal from an array located in Hawaii in an attempt to see if there is any intelligent life there.

 However, the film immediately loses momentum when it jumps forward to 2012 and follows the story of brothers Alex and Stone Hopper. Alex (Taylor Kitch) is the slacker while Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) is the older, career focused sibling. Following a silly series of events in which Alex tries to impress a woman (Brooklyn Decker) by breaking into a convenience store for a chicken burrito, he is basically forced into the navy by his outraged brother. I almost gave up on the film after the first half-hour as it was an overacted mess on Skarsgård's part while Kitch tries to convey every emotion through a silent smolder-- which is annoying when I know that both men are capable of more than such clichéd portrayals

The story then jumps ahead to show both men in the navy and Alex's girlfriend is not only the lovely lady from the beginning but also his commanding officer's (Liam Neeson) daughter. Stone is now the commander of his own ship while Alex, even though he's still the hot-headed guy he always was, is inexplicably a lieutenant with some command responsibilities of his own. As they head out on their respective ships as part of the navy exercises known as RIMPAC, the focus then returns to space and some incoming objects that are hurling to Earth at alarming speeds. After one object collides with a satellite it crashes to the surface of the planet causing massive destruction in its wake. It then becomes clear that the NASA signal sent out seven years earlier resulted in the arrival of an alien species that may intend to take over the planet.  The plot then moves into the predictable man vs. alien part where Alex and Stone try to save the world from the alien invaders.

"Battleship" was always destined to be a shallow film thanks to the inexplicable fact that it was based on a board game. Perhaps this was because movie makers had plundered every marketable comic book they could find before moving on to Saturday morning cartoons; but surely there are a few good books they could draw from? At any rate director Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights" "Hancock") gamely took the reins and attempted to forge a decent movie out of a nothing idea. The problem is that "Battleship" only succeeds in the action sequences-- honestly, they're great. The visuals in the movie are outstanding. And I was almost won over during the part of the movie that directly draws from the board game as the aliens and navy seamen blindly fire at each other at night with only tsunami sensors as the available means of tracking the aliens. Thank goodness no one actually said you sank my battleship!

But no matter how great the suspense is during the action sequences, and it's pretty good, it can't make up for the plot holes and bad acting that plague the whole film. Berg clearly has great respect for the military and attempts to incorporate some nice tributes to our wounded warriors, even going so far to feature real-life double amputee Gregory D. Gadson. And while I appreciate the sentiment it has to be noted that Gadson isn't an actor and the fact that he is paired with the equally wooden Brooklyn Decker throughout most of the film makes their scenes even clunkier than they might otherwise have been (though Decker has actually improved tremendously since her debut in "Just Go With It").  However, I don't want to be too harsh on Gadson because he has an excuse for being wooden- no one else really does. The acting swings from two extremes- overly emotive to barely breathing-- and it makes you wish they'd just go back to the explosions.

The aliens are also really underutilized as a plot point. They come to the Earth only seven years after we send a signal, but that's all we really know about them. I won't get too spoilery (in case you might want to waste a couple hours on the film) but I will say that we learn a little about the aliens, mostly a weakness we can exploit, but we don't know what they're looking for. And it appears that there is the presumption that destroying only the aliens that came on this trip is enough to eradicate the threat altogether and it's amazing to see a big screen film that is so poorly thought out.

If there is anything that redeems the DVD release of this movie it has to be the extras that are included with the package. The behind-the-scenes excerpts are always fun but the the main attraction, for me, was the tour of the USS Missouri (The Mighty Mo).

I'm usually a sucker for movies that show respect to the U.S. military, and "Battleship" does its best to convey a deep sense of gratitude for our servicemen. But the overall production is so buried in what has to be an intentional cheesiness that it's hard not to wince at the hackneyed dialog and hyperfocus on the plot's shortcomings. "Battleship" does what it's supposed to do, I suppose, in that it delivers on the action and visual spectacle. But if you're someone who likes a believable plot in addition to your CGI you can't help but be disappointed in the final result.


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

When I first heard about this movie I thought it was a joke. It still seems like a very bad joke but at least not too many people fell for by donating their money to it at the theater.

SQT said...

Thank goodness. At least we'll most likely be spared from a sequel. But you never know with Hollywood. I never thought they'd make another G.I. Joe...