By Dusty henry
Battleship will be playing at the Majestic Bay Theater starting Fri., May 18, 2012.
Adaptations are tricky business. Whenever a production company like Universal Pictures or Warner Brothers obtains rights to a series or work there is always going to be the fear of backlash from fans comparing the adaptation to the original.
With Battleship, the first in a slew of board game inspired movies coming out in the next few years, seemed like it might be able to avoid this issue. The actual game has no real plot, other than it involves two different navy fleets battling each other. Somehow the fine folks at Universal were able to mess up that one and only detail of the game’s history.
It seems so simple. All they had to was create a scenario where warships would have to battle one another. It didn’t even need to be innovative – there was no chance of that happening anyway. For a movie that seems to just want explosions, what better opportunity than for fully loaded warships to duke it out at sea? Instead, director Peter Berg opted for bringing in aliens.
The movie starts with news broadcasts (shout out to the cameo of Perd Hapley from Parks and Recreation) talking about how scientists are sending a beacon in space to a planet that seems similar to Earth. Also sending a signal into space via satellite apparently looks like a giant, fiery laser beam of death. That didn’t happen just once to establish what it was doing, the audience gets to see the death beam several more times later on.
The aliens come to Earth, for reasons that are unclear and never fully explained, and start blowing things up. Inexplicably, this means that they have to start by going after a small navy fleet in the Pacific Ocean.
What is most perplexing is that the movie hints dozens of times that the aliens do not want to kill people, but do if they get in the way. It seems like a terrible use of foreshadowing to have a Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” message about peace, but then the movie doesn’t follow through at all.
To its credit, the movie really does try to create an exposition for the audiences to get to know and care about the characters. However, the characters are all pretty terrible people. They are all mostly play off of stereotypes
There’s Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) who starts the movie as long-haired, burrito stealing slacker and evolves into the hero of the story, his brother Commander Stone Hopper who always seems angry and forces his brother into the navy, and various other characters like Petty Officer Cora Raikes (Rihanna) and Kitsch’s girlfriend Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker) who is the “blond bombshell” and also the Admiral’s daughter.
Oh yeah, Admiral Shane played by Liam Neeson. The movie marketed Battleship as an action thriller starring Neeson but he only appears briefly to offer stoic and uninspired commentary as the “no nonsense, very serious Admiral.”
Without giving too much away of this very detailed plot, Kitsch and his fleet end up taking on the aliens themselves and have to save the planet. Kitsch may or may not learn some valuable lessons about humility and recklessness on the way, but let’s not get too spoiler heavy.
It was actually a genuine surprise to not see Michael Bay’s name in the credits. Everything about this movie reeked of the same cinematography, dialogue, and humor of the Transformers movies. That’s not a good thing.
At one point a scientist character exclaims “who talks like that!?” An excellent question, who does talk like the people in this movie? Everything is a poor stereotype of how those in the military talk – everything in absolutes, cliché phrases, and sometimes with very subtle and inappropriate racist comments. For anyone who knows men or women currently serving in the military, it’s a bit offensive that Battleship portrays everyone as these dense caricatures.
The film seems to play on emotions the same way a poorly directed recruiting film might pander to its audience. “Guns! Big boats! Explosions! Join the Navy today!”
One of the best moments in the movie is also contentious from a critical point of view. At one point in the film the heroes enlist the help of elderly veterans. The audience at the preview screening cheered at this point, and it’s not hard to see why. It seemed like a gracious tribute to those who served and put their lives on the line for their country. Even people not enjoying the movie until this point can smile and acknowledge this heartwarming scene.
But thinking about it again, it seems like the vets were put in to justify the movie as a tribute to soldiers rather than a mediocre, poorly written action film. It is difficult to argue against adorable old people talking like soldiers while standing shoulder to shoulder with the young stars. Thinking back on it, it may deter more toward exploitation than tribute.
There is of course a forced and convoluted scene where the crew has to guess where the enemy is by calling out coordinates on a radar for where they should attack, a la the actual Battleship game. While silly, it was still essential to fit into the movie somehow.
Skeptics of board game inspired movies now have ammunition for their cause, but that won’t be enough for companies like Hasbro to keep selling the rights of products for movies. Summer blockbusters aren’t always supposed to be inspiring works, but this is a new low. Who knows, maybe all will be redeem when they inevitably make a movie based off of Uno…probably with aliens too.