Today: April 20, 2024
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Battleship

It’s easy to be snobbish about Battleship. It’s a movie based on a guessing game. A guessing game that actually predates the First World

War! It then gained widespread
popularity in 1967 as a board game.
Let’s face it, it’s not the most obvious candidate for feature film
adaptation.

Recently,
jumped up whiny comic book writer Alan
Moore
had a massive whinge about the lack of creativity in the
entertainment industry, launching broadsides against Hollywood’s tendency to
remake (or reboot) film franchises, regurgitate classic TV series’ of the ‘60s
and ‘70s and make films based on theme park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean), even going so far as to suggest that one
day soon Johnny Depp will be playing
a breakfast cereal mascot. While
Moore has a point (though
personally, we can’t wait for Frosties:
The Movie
. It’ll be greeeeeaaat!), this kind of sniping could be considered a
bit rich coming from an aging hippie pagan who writes comics about neurotic
superheroes. Moore should be tied
down and made to watch Battleship.

It may
be dumber than an Adam Sandler fan
but it’s hard to deny that an admirable amount of creative invention has gone
into Battleship. Somehow, director Peter Berg and screenwriters Erich
and Jon Hoeber have managed to
create a serviceable blockbuster event movie from such a bare bones, ridiculous
source. It’s far from smart; it’s
big, dumb, loud, schoolboy fun. But it is fun. In a mindless, over-the-top, square-jawed, ludicrously
patriotic kinda way. It has little
pretension to be anything other than what it is; a piece of lunk-headed
entertainment, the perfect accompaniment to the radioactive nachos, vat of
popcorn and bucket of Coke you’re going to buy at the cinema’s concession
stand. If you’re the type of
person who likes the Transformers movies
(namely a teenage boy who’s never touched a boob), you’ll love Battleship. 

Here’s
the plot: stoopid brainiac scientists beam a message off into space looking for
friendly aliens. Unfriendly aliens
hear the message and invade the Earth, landing in the Pacific just off the
coast of Hawaii. Thank God a joint
US and Japanese navy taskforce, led by stern Admiral Liam Neeson are playing war games just off the coast of
Hawaii. With most of the taskforce
stuck outside the aliens’ protective force-field, the fate of the world rests
on the shoulders of naval loose cannon
Taylor Kitsch
. And
shapely-bottomed singer Rihanna. Seriously.

Leaving
aside for a moment the film’s virulent anti-intellectualism (It’s all the fault of those pesky
scientists! Grrr! Stamps foot,
waves fist…
), the frankly culturally insensitive idea of the US and
Japanese staging war games anywhere near Pearl Harbour (after what happened the
last time?) and that a civilisation that’s managed to develop faster than light
interstellar travel hasn’t managed to develop radar, Battleship is an undemanding, entertaining waste of two hours of
your life.

It
doesn’t matter that at no time do we learn what the aliens actually want with
Hawaii (Hey! At least the aliens in Independence
Day
and Battlefield Earth were
here to strip-mine the planet! Who
knows what these bozos want?). Or
why they’ve sent such a ludicrously small invasion force to subdue the Earth (4
ships guys? Bit arrogant, there’s
over 7 billion of us…). Or even
that we, the human race, strictly speaking kick off an interstellar war by
shooting first. Sure, it was a
warning shot but how were they to know?
They’re aliens. Up until
the point where luckless naval officer Alexander Skarsgård fires a warning shot
across their bows, they hadn’t done anything aggressive. Maybe they were on holiday. They may even have been a visiting
church group. We’ll never know,
because the idea of actually attempting to communicate with the aliens, or even
take some prisoners, is obviously, well, an alien
concept to the US Navy.

But Battleship isn’t the kind of film to
ponder these kind of questions.
This is fast-food filmmaking of the highest order, an orgy of explosive,
cinematic mayhem. If you’re
thinking of these kind of questions during Battleship,
you are not Battleship’s target
audience. You’re probably one of
them pesky scientists that got us into trouble in the first place!

The
cast is adequate; Kitsch cements his leading man status with a charismatic
performance and he and Ichii The
Killer’s Tadanobu Asano
as the gruff Japanese captain he joins forces with
have real chemistry together. Rihanna is pretty one-note (like her
singing, hur-de-hur-hur) in the obligatory ethnic tough babe role that would
usually be filled by Michelle Rodriguez,
Liam Neeson
barks ineffectually from the sidelines but looks damn fine for
a man of his age in Naval dress uniform and the best thing you can say about
model Brooklyn Decker, Kitsch’s love
interest and Neeson’s headstrong daughter, is that she doesn’t bump into the
furniture. Though given she’s
playing a physio taking a double amputee war hero (played by double amputee war
hero Lt Col Mick Canales) on a nature ramble up a
mountain, there really isn’t any furniture to bump into.

The biggest problem with Battleship
though is its militaristic jingoism.
Berg is the son of a US Marine and it shows. He’s made a dumb, popcorn action movie that’s rabidly,
heart-on-sleeve patriotic, drafting in veterans of World War Two (the retired
crew of battleship-turned-museum USS Missouri) and the War on Terror (Canales)
in minor, if significant, supporting roles. To all but an American audience, this naked, weepy love of
country and our fighting men will seem embarrassingly simplistic,
laughable. But, if you’re looking
for a film that questions American patriotism and foreign policy, again, you
probably aren’t Battleship’s target
audience. Just sit back and enjoy
the explosions.

 

 

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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