Saturday, 14 April 2012

Review: Battleship

Year: 2012
Director: Peter Berg
Screenplay: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna

Synopsis is here:

Halfway through Battleship, my mind wandered and formed two creations. One was a basic plot premise for the alleged upcoming monopoly film (I suggest a film like It's a mad mad world or rate race with Ben Kingsley as the monopoly guy). The second invention was the Battleship drinking game. You drink when Rihanna does something feisty, spunky or sprouts dialogue that was clearly reserved for Michelle Rodriguez (possibly too busy to sign for this film). Drink when the film features a scene which displays hilarious jingoistic tendencies. Drink when risible line of trite sound bite friendly dialogue is uttered by Taylor Kitsch. Seriously, It just kept going.

Battleship (based inexplicably on the Hasbro board game  is one of the most expensive unintentional comedies I've had the (dis)pleasure of watching. I mean it must be winking at the camera if after two waves of alien attacks, its lead only then mentions "I've got a bad feeling about this". At one point after yet another moment of silly "lets-go-get-um" dialogue, a scientist actually asks in a rare moment of self reference: "who actually talks like that". The film suggests that the Army and Navy haven't neglected it's veteran's in any shape or form. So much so that they can not only rely on them when the chips are down, but said vet's will easily have the faculties to jump into action at a moments notice. Maybe I'm hopelessly wrong, and a ragtag band of U.S Dad's Armies and disabled soldiers could hold their own against an almost infinitely advanced Alien army but this I doubt. Such is escapism and suspension of belief. Maybe I'm just not pushing mine far enough.

But maybe not. Battleship is a film which costs around $200 million to make and yet is so invested in becoming Transformers at sea that they couldn't even be bothered to finish the script fully. The film looks like it's poking fun at itself and yet it can't even be bothered to sort it's structure out. In the obligatory alien autopsy scene, the film mimics Independence Day (it does this often) with a flashback sequence which reminds us of that weird mind meld moment with Bill Pullman in Area 51. The film half heartily gives us some   exposition of the beings, but then drops the info, immediately afterwards. The film is full of moments and devices like this in which scenes don't advance plot or character, but remind in the film because Battleship, that's why.

This is Peter Berg mimicking Michael Bay as close as he possibly can. An attack on Tokyo* feels lifted off Dark of the Moon. The film is littered with countless Bay-like circling shots and needless slow motion, paper thin character development and an obscene running time which belies the films actual depth. Yet, credit to Berg for delivering a popcorn which doesn't have that nasty after-taste that comes with choking down Bay's tedious fighting Robots saga.

Lets not lie, this is a jingoistic recruitment film for the U.S Navy, but the film is so ridiculous in it's creation you may not believe it. You may even laugh as hard I did. I was far more entertained by this films absurdity than any Transformer film. Just watch the way it shows images of children under threat from the alien "other". Or an amusing aside where Taylor Kitsch (who is woeful in this, what happened to the John Carter pluck?) basically does his best to make sure that little Jimmy or whoever joins the Navy with his description of life at sea ("I drive the ship, it's way more fun").

Whether or not the film and it's comically haphazard construction is intentional or not will be in the eye of the beholder. There's a good chance that those who love the likes of Battle L.A and Transformers will probably see no different. However, Bergs film despite it's sloppy scripting, terrible acting (featuring a criminally wasted Neeson) and dubious placement of not only military organisations but fizzy drinks, mobiles and the like, is relatively competent in one area. While the action itself was relatively bland, it at least it could be followed.  Berg's film misses the topical commentary (and more entertaining set pieces) of his earlier work, Hancock, and lacks the edginess that Very Bad Things, brought to proceedings. However, Battleship revels in its badness enough, to make it a poor movie worth watching once if not for the hilarity. I will be wasted if I ever sit down to watch this again.