Bored Game: Despite its classic board game inspiration, Battleship founders.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
It’s pathetic enough that Battleship is pretty much the dullest alien invasion movie ever, featuring an uninteresting incursion by nondescript aliens doing boring things and not even blowing shit up in exciting new ways. But Battleship also fancies itself a cautionary tale. “OMG no no no, we should not be broadcasting our existence to the universe,” it cries, “because all the bad aliens will come for our water or gold or blood or Twix bars or something! Someone shut up all the astro scientist types before they just invite all the facehuggers over for dinner OMG!”
For that is precisely what happens here: Space nerds send a signal to a distant star system that looks a lot like ours, and, like, days later, here’s the away team from Planet Facehugger come to steal all our bubblegum. Except they’re not actually all that bad. The most destruction they cause is accidental – when their communications ship crashes into and all over Hong Kong – and their badass war balls – the aliens deploy, literally, giant spiky metal balls that roll around crushing stuff in Honolulu such as highway overpasses and military helicopters – come to a complete stop when they might mistakenly roll over a little kid or a horse. So you basically just need to go to a Little League game or stand next to a horse to escape destruction by the giant metal alien balls.
But even when we puny humans who should have just kept our interstellar mouths shut do need to engage them in a military way – in the waters off Honolulu – they kinda just roll over like puppies wanting their bellies rubbed. All we need is Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), who goes from Loser to Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in exactly the same amount of time it takes for the aliens to get our hello and come a-invadin’. Apparently you can be a felon who enlists in the military and become an officer in next to no time. And then some tech outdated by even Earth standards turns out to be enough to bring down alien invaders anyway. We don’t even need our best stuff. All we need is a mothballed battleship and a bunch of grandpas who probably haven’t even forgiven Japan for Pearl Harbor yet.
Really, I’m so not kidding.
Screenwriters Erich and Jon Hoeber – who as a team wrote Red, which is awesome, and Whiteout, which is not – had to bring in the mothballed battleship, because they were locked into “crafting” a movie around a mothballed board game. But they could have been more creative about it. They give us giant peg bombs. God help them, they came up with a way to have real warships – one of them alien – fight a battle on a grid. But they have no new or even new-ish ideas to excite our sci-fi glands.
Independence Day is looking more and more like a classic with each passing year. Remember the exciting sequence that culminates in Will Smith triumphantly capturing an alien POW? Remember how hard-won that was for Smith’s character, and how much we invested in what he was doing? Here, it’s, “Oh hey we fished this alien dude out of the water.” Off camera. While something far less interesting than capturing an alien soldier was happening.
I can’t even say this is nothing but a pointless exercise in blowing stuff up, because actually not that much stuff blows up at all. Pop star Rihanna – whose casting as a Navy grunt prompted howls of derision – is the least bad thing about this flick. She’s actually pretty good; she at least brings a bit of energy to the screen. The same cannot be said of, say, Liam Neeson (Wrath of the Titans, The Grey), whom we can feel counting his paywad in the few scenes he appears in. His sole purpose as a Navy admiral is to be the intimidating father of Brooklyn Decker (Just Go with It), whom Taylor Kitsch wants to marry, but he simply can’t get up the nerve to ask him for permission. Hoorah for Kitsch, for by saving the world from boring, incompetent aliens, he is finally made man enough to confront Neeson. This isn’t quite as appalling as crafting a tale of the end of the world so as to empower a little girl to stop wetting the bed – see 2012 for this – but almost.
Then again, the notion that an adult woman would require her father’s permission to marry puts the social setting of Battleship on a par with the military and scientific one. That could have been a helluva lot more adventurous fun than this soggy mess.
BATTLESHIP (1) •Directed by Peter Berg • Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson •Rated PG-13 •131 min. •Lighthouse Cinemas, Century Cinemas Del Monte Center, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Cannery Row XD.