Friday, May 18, 2012
Movie review: Battleship
Board game adaptation sinks in an ocean of noise.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “it’s been a long time since I’ve had an intense headache,” or “I love those military recruiting ads before the movies. I wish they were two hours long,” then by all means go see Battleship. Otherwise, you’ll be more entertained playing the board game.
The biggest problem with the movie is that we’ve seen all this alien invasion, world-ending stuff before, and it’s been done better, from Independence Day to Transformers. It’s so obvious Battleship wants to be the latter film, it’s kind of embarrassing.
But what really sinks Battleship is how methodical it is. There’s the invasion, the contact, the first shot, the retaliation, and then a lot of back-and-forth gunfire. It doesn’t stray to have any fun, aside from comic relief from the vastly unappreciated Jesse Plemons (Landry from Friday Night Lights).
The dialogue consists of about three phrases: “What do we do?” “Get your guns ready” and “Light ‘em up!” At least no one yelled, “You sunk my battleship!” But no one ever says anything to make you care for any of the characters.
Taylor Kitsch plays Hopper, the kind of smart aleck who likes to pick fights to prove his manliness. Kitsch has tons of charisma, but has yet to prove it on the big screen. This is his third big-budget disaster following the Wolverine prequel and the instant punchline John Carter. Here, he’s stuck in a role that should be perfect for him — the goodhearted bad boy — but the script does him no favors. People constantly tell him how brilliant he is if he could only stay on the right path, but there’s never any evidence that he deserves his accolades.
But he’s far more interesting than his brother. Played by Alexander Skasgard (True Blood), he’s dull but domineering and seems to have trouble using the English language, which is simply not acceptable now that he’s been on an HBO show for four seasons.
At least we’ve got Liam Neeson as Hopper’s soon-to-be father-in-law. Yet he’s inexplicably sidelined for much of the movie. Really, Peter Berg? You’re going to pull out your best and most awesome actor so we can spend more time on a ship with Rihanna’s acting skills?
What we’re left with are explosions and improbable escapes, two full hours of them. But it’s surprisingly toothless. The alien invaders aren’t bloodthirsty. (In one scene, an alien weapon — basically a tire with teeth — sizes up a kid and then passes him over.) These aliens are just extremely intelligent on how to defeat their enemy. And not once but twice, characters in the gunnery (who can’t even see the aliens they’re firing upon) shout an exclamation that ends with “mother,” with explosion silencing the F word. It pulls out the big guns only for a flag with “BANG!” scrawled on it to pop out.
Then there’s the curious case of Gregory Gadson. He’s a real-life Iraq War vet playing an amputee. He is undoubtedly a hero but shouldn’t be an actor. Director Berg has used non-actors before (most famously Tim McGraw), but Godson simply isn’t convincing, in the role that should be most effective.
Ultimately, aside from one musical montage set to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” Battleship never seems fun. And fun is the most you can hope for from brainless entertainment like this. When a movie fails that objective, the battle is already lost.
For showtimes for Battleship, click here.