Review: “Battleship”

Ah, the first dud of summer. It had to come around eventually.

After the financial success of the Transformers franchise, it was only a matter of time before Hasbro decided to turn another one of its toys into a feature film. This time it’s a very, very liberal interpretation of the game Battleship.

Who knew the 2-player game of luck strategy was really about an alien invasion? Director Peter Berg and writers Jon and Erich Hoeber, apparently.

Our protagonist, Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch), is a bona fide screw-up living on his Naval officer brother’s (Alexander Skarsgard) couch until he decides to enlist himself. Actually, his new duty only seems to result in a haircut and a girlfriend, but hey what do I know?

Speaking of his girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker), her father (Liam Neeson) just so happens to be an admiral in the fleet. Now if only there were a way for Hopper to prove his worth to himself and his girlfriend’s father…..(cue alien attack).

The film is far from perfect, but before I unleash my negativity, let’s talk about what it did well.

As a basic qualification for any summer blockbuster, it can be fun and exciting escapism. There are times when the audience gets lost in the explosions and rounds of machine gun fire.

“Battleship” is also pretty respectful of the military in the film. That isn’t to say that the stunts/decisions/etc. in the film are realistic at all, but the film was created with the help of the military. Real sailors and officers were used in many scenes (and the filmmakers didn’t feel the need to shamelessly advertise it like some films) and some of the great battleships of history make an appearance.

The premise may not be anything like the game, but there are little nods here and there that are cool. Yes, the board game’s display does make an appearance about 2/3 of the way through the film. No, much to my dismay, no one says “You’ve sunk my battleship.”

Also, the soundtrack is pretty cool. Any time CCR makes it into a film, I’m happy.

Now that that’s out of the way, this movie sucked pretty hard.

Let’s start off with the casting. Taylor Kitsch isn’t the best choice to lead a film like this. Not only is he unproven (most of his movies are financial disappointments and critically frowned upon), but he’s relatively unknown outside of “Friday Night Lights.” Add to that a couple of even lesser known actors and Rihanna and you’ve got a problem. The only smart casting choice was Liam Neeson and he has about 15 minutes of screentime.

As far as Peter Berg goes, this is easily his worst feature. It hurts to know the same guy was behind “Friday Night Lights” and decent movies like “The Kingdom” and “Hancock.” This film has little, if any, soul and looks like an amateur director’s take on a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich film. There are also many scenes and ideas that should have been left on the editing room floor, but stumbled their way onto the screen. For example, the first five minutes of the film are completely useless and redundant, given the rest of the film.

Remember the random people in “The Dark Knight” who would have horrible deliveries on one-liners like “No more dead cops!” and such? That’s how an unhealthy portion of the dialogue in this film plays out. Not only are the tough guy lines disappointing, but the humor falls flat nine times out of ten. This leads us to the film’s main problem.

Most movies are only as strong as their writing and that is what ultimately serves as this film’s downfall. Almost every character is one-dimensional and/or annoying, the dialogue is usually bad and the plot is a little too dumb for my suspension of disbelief. I guess I shouldn’t expect much from the writers of “Whiteout.”

If you’re wondering where “Battleship” ranks on an “enjoyable popcorn fun” scale, I would put it somewhere between “I Am Number Four” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (without the latter’s racist robots and sex jokes).

Grade: D+

Let’s hope that next week’s “Men in Black 3” provides a little more quality fun.

Happy viewing.

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Two Sides of the Same Coin: Why “The Avengers” Deserves the Same Respect As “The Dark Knight”

After two long weeks at work and minimal free time, it feels good to be blogging again.

I want to talk about “The Avengers.” If you’re reading this post, you probably already saw it. I hope you enjoyed the 2 1/2 hours of escapism. While I didn’t review the film on here, my grading would’ve been in the “A-” area.

Around the same time that “The Avengers” came out, the third trailer from the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises” was revealed. This new revelation made me travel over to the IMDB boards of TDKR to see what the latest on the film was and geek out for a while. What I found was a bunch of bickering over which was the better superhero film (Neither of these films had been released yet, mind you). There were box office predictions, name calling and all sorts of mature conversations being had. Many Batman fans were saying they hoped “The Avengers” tanked so that TDKR could blow more records out of the water in July.

This kind of behavior isn’t all that unfamiliar for IMDB boards or for disagreements between Marvel and DC fans. It had me wondering, though, how people who have a passion for the same thing (comics, in this case) can be so vehemently opposed to a film like “The Avengers.”

While it may seem like all the successful superhero movies these days have a gritty, realistic feel to them. It wasn’t so long ago that most comic adaptations were judged by (aside from faithfulness to their original source) how much fun they were. When comics first came out, most of them were just little cartoons not too unlike “Peanuts” or “Family Circus.”

When Superman or Batman came onto the scene, characters were pretty clearly cut in black and white. The heroes were noble and the villains, not so much. This is the kind of comic book film that Joss Whedon made with “The Avengers.” The characters and plots may be more complex than those original comics, but it is still an idea based on entertainment and cool special effects. There isn’t anything wrong with this format and those who think there is have just been the victim of too many horribly written comic book films that aimed for family fluff and “safe” filmmaking (“Fantastic Four” and “Batman and Robin” come to mind).

The reason why so many people think Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman films are great is because they provide a new vantage point for one of our favorite heroes. Set within a more realistic world, “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” come across as something bold and refreshing. In the last couple of decades, people got bored with the superheroes being so clean-cut and all powerful. They needed to have more human weaknesses and flaws to be seen as something worth reading (There’s a reason why Superman isn’t as popular of a character as Spiderman and Batman these days).

“The Dark Knight” is the new kid on the block for comic book adaptations and, as such, is seen as the benchmark. Anything different will be viewed as less than quality filmmaking. But what’s so wrong with being different? “The Avengers” is still very well written and acted. The body count is even pretty high, so it’s not like there’s a difference in that department. Some people are just hating on Joss Whedon’s film because it’s a popcorn film. As if that is something to be ashamed of when talking about movies that feature giant green rage monsters and villains that like to dress as clowns.

Surely there are plenty of movie lovers out there that can appreciate both films without getting into a shouting match. These comic book movies are cut from the same cloth, just with a different vision by their respective directors. Each is taken from a different era of comic book history and is of equal importance. Not to mention they are loads of fun to watch.

That’s all for this post. I hope comic book lovers can forgive me for trying to give a history lesson on a subject that I’m a novice on. I also hope it wasn’t too rambly for those who barely know comics or never visit message boards. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below. Next time I’ll be back with a review.

Happy viewing.