‘Battleship’ Review: It Sinks

Posted in Screening Room by - December 08, 2015

Aliens attack and one lone battleship fleet at sea has to fight them off, that’s pretty much all you need to know when it comes to Battleship, a movie where everything else from lead character Lieutenant Alex Hopper wanting to marry the daughter of his admiral, to following the scientists who have been trying to figure out the alien invasion themselves just feels superfluous. From the outset it feels obvious that this was a movie designed to win money, well, to an extent many (if not all) movies are made in the hopes of winning money, but everything about this movie just seems to have been calculated and designed with this purpose: Romance? Check. Explosions? Check. Tons of Hong Kong stuff to appeal to the Chinese market? Sure, even if the city gets blown to bits. Comic relief? Yup. In the end, it’s nothing more but a two-hour commercial for a board-game.

For some reason, Peter Berg directed this movie.  Berg, known for his handheld camerawork eschews that technique altogether and although I have nothing against handheld camerawork, and believe that Berg has used it gorgeously in movies like Friday Night Lights, it feels like a blessing that he didn’t use it here because man, is this movie an assault on the eyes during the action scenes. A lot happens. One feels the echo of Rick McAllum’s words to talk about the Star Wars prequels: “It’s so dense, every single image has so many things going on” ringing through the migraine induced by these sequences. At times, Berg and everyone else in the movie seems to have had at least some sense of tongue in cheek while making the movie: It opens with Hopper breaking into a convenience store to steal a chicken burrito for Sam (the aforementioned Admiral’s daughter), with the Pink Panther music playing in the background. And you thought romance was dead and cinema was alive. And then comes the climax and the after-credits scene, where it seems like Berg or anyone, really was having any fun at all. The movie goes for broke but not just in terms of visuals, but also of humor, music and well, filmmaking overall in a manner that makes at least a bit of sense. Well, it only makes a tiny little bit of sense.

The movie seems to be utterly confused as to what Hopper’s arc should be: Is his point that he must be more brave to lead, and that’s why we have the subplot about him not being able to ask the Admiral if he can marry his daughter? Okay, but why have him break into a convenience store of all things? That’s not exactly what a nervous lieutenant would do. Heck, in fact, later we have him arriving late to an admiral’s speech, threatening a Japanese soccer player during a match, and the filmmakers want us to believe that this guy is not afraid? Add to that that he’s doing crazy things for a girl who he’s only known for less than three minutes, with their only subject of conversation being her craving for chicken burritos.

The alien weaponry begs to be interesting. No, really it’s screaming for it. Just blowing shit up is not enough; it also has to absorb it…and blow it away again or something. It’s hard to tell if Berg was playing around with the rewind button on his Moviola or Avidor if that’s actually what the alien weapon does when it explodes. Giant alien metal balls (What is it with these Hasbro movies and robot balls?) crush anything they can find while they roll, but oh yeah, they also have to have chains that spring out and destroy everything around them very loudly. Everything is overly complicated and noisy.

And that’s the thing about this movie, if it had to exist, why not make it simple? A 90-minute story of a battleship having a stand-off with aliens at sea that escalates into an insane climax. Do we need to see the aliens attack Hong Kong? Do we need a love story? (Kudos in a way for giving Sam something to do in the movie other than just being the love interest, though. Same for Rihanna and her character, she does a pretty good job) Do we need the scientists?  Can’t the weapons look cooler and do actual scary stuff that makes sense? It’s a movie based on a board-game, our expectations are very low. But you know the movie is in trouble when it doesn’t meet them, and you can see at least a tiny glimmer of potential.

Final Say: Skip It

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