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