By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Liam Neeson, and Gregory Gadson
When I first heard they were going to do a movie based on Pirates of the Caribbean ten years ago, I shook my head with shocking disbelief. I didn’t think there was any way that a film based on a Disneyland theme park ride could possibly be any good. Now, I am not here to say that it was. But, while Pirates 1 was loud and goofy, it also was, admittedly, a hell of a lot of fun. Flash forward to when I heard that Battleship, a game I played by the hour as a kid, was going to be made into a film. Once again, my head shook. But, I did not think that it would be bad. In fact, I was one of the few that thought it could have been fun. With Peter Berg (Hancock) at the helm, I really thought that the potential for a silly but fun time at the movies was in the offering. Once Battleship started, the film that unfolded in front of me was loud. It was goofy. But, most of all, Battleship was, to put it bluntly, the worst film going experience I have had for quite awhile. Full of terrible acting, plot holes you can drive an aircraft carrier through, and a set of characters that were about as animated as a golf ball on an old rug, this movie is one tough sit through.
Most fun summer films like to start off with a little introduction to our main character, and hopefully endear its audience to who we are going to have to root for the next couple hours. Here, after telling us a little backstory through plastering words on the screen and calling fellow planets covered in water ‘Goldilocks planets,’ we are then taken to the character of Lt Hopper (Kitsch), whose first major conflict in this story…is to chase down a chicken burrito for beautiful Samantha (Decker) to the tone of the Pink Panther theme. I knew, right from this opening sequence, that Berg’s instincts throughout this whole film were going to be bad. Also, I have made no secrets about my admiration of the job Kitsch did in the criminally underrated John Carter. In that film, I thought his timing was almost perfect, and he did things like fight all animated characters very well. Here, he seems to be sleepwalking through this entire part. I do not know what it was. Whether his voice inflection, the stupid way he would play practicing his engagement speech (how did he win over Sam anyway?) or just flat out doing a really bad impression of Tom Cruise from Top Gun, Kitsch did not win me over at all. Although, a lot of that, I feel, has to do with the writing. Is this, and other character stories that take place in the first half hour of this movie, supposed to endear us to the characters? Because, it really wasn’t working, and it was flat out embarrassing watching Neeson go through the motions as well. Especially after the awesome performance he gave in The Grey earlier this year.
Any director who takes on a project like this (Battleship cost a whopping $200 million to make) has the right to change dialogue or situations that he feels fit each and every scene he directs. And, whether it was the weak script (by Erich and Jon Hoeber, who also wrote 2010’s very underrated Red) or Berg wanting this to feel as Michael Bay-ish as he can, the dialogue in this film, quite frankly, is some of the worst dialogue uttered by actors onscreen in years. Now, I understand, in the end, this is a movie based on a board game. And, when the ‘sank my battleship’ line is uttered (as clunky as it is) I did not wince as much as I thought I would. But, wow!! With lines like ‘the boob is doing boobish behavior’ and ‘E.T. wants to phone home,’ there were more badly written lines of dialogue in this movie than a Twilight film. And, if I were to describe Rihanna’s acting debut and line deliveries using Battleship: The Game terms, I would call it a Destroyer. The way she flatly utters lines like ‘weird, man’ and shouts (wink wink) ‘what the hell is that,’ proves, like another element in those Twilight films, that she cannot emote at all. Not that Berg noticed, as he even gave her a John McClane ‘Yippee Kay Ay’ moment that, again, induced yet more groans in an already groan packed film going experience.
I will give Berg this much: he had a father who worked in the Navy, and he has been wanting to do a war film based in the water for a long time. And, the way he decided to combine it with an old board game is actually pretty creative. There were also a few decisions made here that were, I must say, pretty good. For example, audiences have been treated to tentacle-having, ugly aliens for many years now. Even J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, while one of last summer’s great films, went that route in designing aliens and in turn, made that portion of the movie pretty disappointing. Here, Berg gives them quite a unique design. And, in some cases, their vision almost reminded me of a Predator’s. Also, once the first 35 minutes of Battleship’s running time is mercifully up, the first alien attack is actually pretty fun. Great action scenes, combined with even more cool designs (I especially liked the circular saw looking missiles that also had tails), made this little portion of the film, if just for a few minutes, seem like the movie I thought I was going into. I also really liked the score done by frequent Bay collaborator Stephen Joblowski and rock guitarist Tom Morello. It really helped move and enhance the (loud) action scenes at hand. However, that is it, folks. Because, once that first attack is over, the film sinks like a ship. Why did the aliens attack? What are they after? Well, I guess it can be argued that audiences do not want to see or hear those kinds of plot points in a big summer film. But, as a film goer, I can go along with missing plot holes like that if I am having fun. Here, they just added to a, in the end, truly horrendous experience at the movies. Someone please sink the executive that green lit this thing.
1.5 out of 5