Battleship

Been ignoring this blog yet again, so I thought I’d get back into the swing of things with a nice dumb meathead action flick. There was also some morbid fascination to this one as it bombed at the box office, despite appearing to give the audience of shrieking yahoos that enjoy the Transformers sequels exactly what they want.

Battleship (2012)
I don’t know about you, but I laugh every time I see “in association with Hasbro” or something similar in the opening credits of a film. Maybe it’d be fine for animated features, but to see Hasbro, the toymaker, appear in glowing metallic letters backed with super-serious big-budget orchestral music is ludicrous. So, as you may or may not know, Battleship is actually based on that game of the same name with the plastic pegs. Don’t take this as a clear indication of the film’s quality though. Films have been based on board games before, like 1985 comedy Clue which was based on Cluedo or Jumanji and Zathura which were based on (sadly) fictional board games. It’s a well known fact that Citizen Kane was based on a specific and particularly heated game of Operation, but they ended up leaving out all of that stuff when it came to the edit- that’s Hollywood for you.

“IMDB had like 5 quotes that weren’t particularly good. So I’m filling up space.”
Anyway, Battleship is the story of Lieutenant Alex Hopper (fail magnet Taylor Kitch) as he and several ships are accosted by a violent alien race during routine naval war games. After being separated from the rest of the Navy led by Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), it’s up to Hopper and his gang to save the goddamn world. Actor-wise, Taylor Kitsch isn’t bad and Liam Neeson is predictably good. Rihanna struggles with a thankless Michelle Rodriguez type role, but wins best female of the film by default considering Brooklyn Decker’s Sam is a complete non-entity. A lot of the actors aren’t actors at all, but real servicepeople and veterans. Dear Christ does it show as well. It’s like Act of Valour all over again.

I would say I’m pretty cynical. I’m hardly proud of it though. It does stop you from enjoying the simple things. It’s rare that I find a film that not only matches my cynicism, but surpasses it. Battleship is one of the most pandering, dumbed-down, by-the-numbers products I think I’ve ever seen. It’s important for me to stress I didn’t hate the film, I was just stunned by the assumptions it makes of its audience. It isn’t any good, but it didn’t earn any violent loathing from me. This is aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. This is for the fat guy in row 7 with a trough full of popcorn and who thinks filmmaking doesn’t get any more kick-ass that the Bayformers flicks. I’m trying very hard to not sound like a snooty prick here. I’ve said this sentence (or variations on it) so many times that I feel like a pull string doll. I fucking love dumb action movies. They are my bread and butter. I even liked the first Transformers. The sequels can go fuck themselves two towns away from me though. Battleship is trying so hard to be Transformers. It’s got the same feel, same broadly sketched “characters”, everything. Despite all the seriously impressive explosions and CGI being shoved in my face, all I could see was boxes being ticked on some prick exec’s flipchart. Hollywood is obsessed with “the safe bet” at the moment. This is why we have more sequels than ever jostling for your attention at your local cinema. Battleship, at least on paper, seems like an guaranteed moneymaker. Truth be told, I don’t know why it flopped as bad as it did. Perhaps it was the fact it went up against The Avengers. Perhaps it was due to the ridiculous premise. Who knows?

Battleship doesn’t do anything new. It’s a pale copy of something that wasn’t very good in the first place. It’s just another throbbing vein in America’s angry erection for deifying the military. Thing is, as risible as the slo-mo Michael Bay shots of the military are, I can at least understand how some people could perceive them as “cool”. Battleship does the same thing but worse, picking baffling montages to score with AC/DC songs. There’s one bit where it’s doing a montage of disabled soldiers going through physical therapy, which is a little odd, but fine. Then director Peter Berg includes weird shots like one of them playing a game on his phone. There’s another one later in the film where some naval veterans have to do things old school to beat the invaders. It’s meant to be really badass, but comes across like a parody. I was hooting with laughter by that point. The dialogue is also leaden, unsubtle and frankly painful to hear. Again, this lent an air of parody and spoof to the whole thing. Factor in the fact that Battleship is one of the stupidest films I’ve ever had to sit through and you may get some ironic enjoyment out of it. Word of warning though, this isn’t a “so bad it’s good” film, destined to take its place alongside The Room and Troll 2.

“I could write anything here and it would be better than everything in the film anyway. Guffbadgers.”

As I said before, the effects and computer wizardry are damn impressive. If explosions and visual effects are your thing, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Battleship. The various designs of the alien crafts are cool as are the aliens themselves (even though they all look like they belong in the Halo universe). The film cost a lot of moolah and it shows. It’s just a shame they couldn’t hire better writers and better actors. When it comes down to it, Battleship is a committee made, dumb-as-they-come crowdpleaser that failed to either find or please they crowd it was targeted at. This is the point where most reviewers make some sort of ship pun, but I’m above that. I’ll just leave you with the sobering thought that you people as an audience made this thing happen. This is what Hollywood thinks that you want based on all the twats buying tickets for Transformers and its ilk. You should be insulted. You should take to the streets and protest. But you won’t. You’ll sit around and wait for Michael Bay to deliver his next load of noisy gash to your eyeballs. Fuck you.

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