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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.55%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 13.64%
Pretty Bad40.91%
Total Crap40.91%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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by Brett Gallman

"It sinks."
2 stars

“Battleship” begins exactly where you’d expect a movie based on a naval board game to begin: in outer space, where the planet Earth has discovered the existence of a new planet that may sustain life. One scientist (Hamish Linklater) has reservations about attempting to communicate with the planet, predicting it’ll be a repeat of Columbus and the Native Americans, only we’ll be the Native Americans. Thanks to “Battleship,” I don’t think we’ll need to ever worry about that because we can just beam up a copy of Peter Berg’s film to keep any unwanted visitors at bay.

I have to assume that no one would want to visit a planet that churns out stuff like “Battleship,” a film that’s content to xerox Michael Bay without having the courtesy of improving the formula. Taylor Kitsch is a hot-shot screw-up who ends up being forced into naval duty by his brother (Alexander Skarsgard), where he ends up hitting it off with an admiral’s daughter (Brooklyn Decker). Liam Neeson is the disapproving admiral, and he glowers through his sparse screen time with all the conviction of a guy who can’t wait to see his check get deposited.

Somehow, Kitsch’s Alex Hopper has ascended to the rank of lieutenant, despite being a hard-head that never plays by the rules. For whatever reason, he’s going to be relieved of duty, but not before aliens from the aforementioned planet crash the international war game to give him a shot at redemption.

From there, “Battleship” presents Bay-lite softcore disaster porn--there are sequences where cities are adequately destroyed, but it’s not exactly awe-inspiring, chiefly because the aliens arrive in only five vessels. They’re actually just advance scouts, sent to survey the planet and report back. They manage to demolish their immediate surroundings and establish a perimeter that conveniently manages to ensnare most of the principal characters.

This mostly ends up being Kitsch and his crew, which also includes Rihanna, Jesse Plemons, Tadanobu Asano, and a ragtag gang of officers forced to engage their extraterrestrial enemies. Since Berg is riffing on Michael Bay, you can make all the usual assumptions: the action and destruction is mostly good, realized by some top-notch effects that allow Berg to make a glitzy, swooping summer blockbuster, but not a very memorable one since so little of “Battleship” manages to feel like anything but a “Transformers” spin-off. Everything from the mechanical designs to Steve Jablonsky's generic score feel like something you've seen and heard before.

Berg at least has an eye for action, as the ship-to-ship combat and invasion attacks are coherent--there are some long, uninterrupted shots that impressively weave a bunch of destruction that would be thrilling if they were at the service of a better movie and not a glorified toy commercial.

Instead, Berg also carries over the worst qualities of the films that have inspired “Battleship,” as it’s full of stupid people forced to say stupid things, many of which are being said for a presumably stupid audience. Bits of dialogue force-feed exactly what’s going on ad museum, and the film is full of tone-deaf humor that leaves you wondering just who the aliens are here. Not content to simply make a cool film about naval destroyers and alien spacecraft, Berg and his writers continually trip over themselves by reminding us that other characters are out there: Neeson, sidelined by the alien force-field, is forced to just bark orders, while Decker, playing a physical therapist, is hanging out with an amputee veteran (Gregory Gadson, who actually lost his legs during military service) on a nearby mountain that just happens to house the satellites the aliens need to phone home.

As such, there are a parade of people who aren't primarily actors, most of whom don’t manage to be any better or worse than many of their actual actor counterparts, a fact that probably says more about the latter rather than the former. Kitsch fares okay thanks to his natural charisma, and he almost seems to morph into Channing Tatum once he takes the reins. Rihanna is one of his petty officers, whose defining characteristics include an ability to tote guns and an inability to emote. Asano is interesting as Kitsch’s Japanese counterpart, primarily because he’s one of the few characters to pass for anything resembling a human being.

The counterpoint here is obvious: Kitsch is sort of the epitome of American egotism, and the film makes this clear early on when his arrogant swagger costs the U.S. a soccer match during part of the RimPac exercises (a moment that doesn’t come without an announcer saying as such, of course). By contrast, Asano is understated and dignified, and the film interestingly sublimates American authority when the Japanese lieutenant figures out a way to track their enemy.

Moments like this make you consider that there’s more than meets the eye to “Battleship,” as the film perhaps slyly undercuts American imperialism and arrogance. If they’re indeed glamorized in the role of the native fending off conquistadors, then where can we assume Berg’s sympathies lie in reality, where the reverse has been true for the past 50 years? Judging from “Battleship,” it’s incredibly hard to say, especially since it slams into the end credits to the strains of “Fortunate Son,” a scathing anti-war song that shuttles us out into the lobby after we’ve just witnessed 120 minutes of naval fetishism and glorification. Did I mention that “Battleship” is tone-deaf?

At any rate, one thing is clear: Berg loves the military, and don’t you dare think for a second that “Battleship” isn’t a star-spangled affair that reinforces just how fucking cool it is in the service. Berg’s hero worship of Bay is uncanny in this respect, as, at times, he really nails the bone-headed bravado needed for something like “Battleship.” Some scenes, such as the grid battle that’s derived straight from the board game or a fistfight between an amputee and an alien, nearly allow the film to impose its lunkheaded will. Berg even provides an unabashedly corny resolution that I don’t even think Bay would dare to dream up.

There’s an unbelievable earnestness to be found here; Berg’s heart isn’t just on its sleeve--it’s smattered all over a sleeve that’s probably embroidered with an American flag, and this almost salvages the film from its murky depths. Gadson’s character especially shouldn’t work, especially since you can chart his course from the minute he appears, and it sometimes feels like he won a contest to appear in “Battleship” and hang out with Brookyln Decker; however, there is a charm to all of this that reminds you of the better Bay films.

But that’s the problem with “Battleship”--it’s a little too much “Transformers” and not enough “Armageddon” as it eventually clangs and screeches with all the flavor of salt-water. I suppose I can give Berg that much credit--he’s crafted a film that can actually allow you to appreciate the doltish genius of Bay’s disaster-piece.

“Battleship” also resembles a sequence in another film: “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” which features a scene with a couple of college girls who engage in a game of “battle-shits” that sends our heroes fleeing the bathroom in horror. I can’t say the stench of “Battleship” will do the same thing with audiences in the multiplex, but it is certainly a series of loud, wet farts all the same.

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originally posted: 05/19/12 15:12:21
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User Comments

6/25/18 Louise Crapola 1 stars
12/29/17 morris campbell decent 3 stars
5/12/16 David Hollingsworth A ludicrous piece of crap clearly marketed to kids. 1 stars
8/01/13 Suzie Williams Average alien action movie. Not as terrible as I'd heard, but it wasn't very good either. 3 stars
9/15/12 mr.mike I liked the old guys on The Missouri. 3 stars
8/22/12 Martha Rios Dissapointing 2 stars
5/26/12 -- Saw it because of Liam Neeson and he is not really even in the movie 2 stars
5/20/12 Darkstar I'd rather take a cannon blast to the junk than sit through that again. 1 stars
5/19/12 Kim 5 stars
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  18-May-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Aug-2012


  DVD: 28-Aug-2012

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