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Sink It!

Monday, May 28, 2012

God damn you Transformers! Look what you've done! Since the first BIG movie of the summer has now come and gone, we are now forced to sit through the smaller, though still loud and garish, feats of escapism. Loud and garish are certainly words that come to mind when describing the first of those said movies, Battleship. Other words that come to mind are brainless, pointless, derivative, overly long, and generally awful. Of all the movies to be coming out this summer, this one, above all others, has no reason to exist, nor does it deserve to.

We are so fucked!

Scientists searching through the vast nethers of space discover a Goldilocks planet, one that has an atmosphere similar to Earth. Being that it can support life, these scientist, wisely, beam a signal to this planet, hoping for a response. Well, they get it alright. A welcoming party, or sorts, crashes to Earth and lands in the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately for anything human in the area, these visitors are looking for a bit more than Reese's Pieces and some acceptance. Their ships soon rise from the ocean and start wreaking havoc.

Coincidentally, this coincides with RIMPAC, a gathering of the Navy's from various Pacific Rim nations, including the US and Japan. Along for the ride is Alex Hopper, a gifted, but dumb as bricks, lieutenant on a US destroyer. He's only in the Navy because his brother, Stone, forced him to join to get him off the couch. He also just happens to be in love with Samantha, who just happens to be the daughter of the US Fleet Commander, Admiral Shane, who hates Alex. And Alex also just happens to be the guy who is tasked with taking on the the alien menace, so if only he can nut up and become the leader he is meant to be... OH DEAR GOD, WHO THE HELL CARES????!!!!????

Seriously! Name a single element of this thing that hasn't been done in countless other films! Just one! I'll wait!
Can't do it, can you? That's because Battleship is one the most hopeless derivative movies to come out in awhile. Forget how there is next to nothing tying this thing into the product it is supposedly based off of. This movie is trying so hard to ape the likes of Transformers, Battle: Los Angeles, and any of the countless, military loving, explosion filled, jingoism fueled excesses of light, sound, and flame. You get the heroes walking dramatically, and you're not even sure if it's in slow motion. You get the big tracking shots of untold amounts of destruction. And you get a central female character, and all you can hope to wonder about her is what she would look like without a shirt.

Allow me to rephrase. God damn you Michael Bay!

And all that would be fine, but the performances here range from bad to even worse than you would expect from a movie like this. As Alex, Taylor Kitsch is merely passable, displaying some sort of comedic timing and decent line delivery. This is in direct contrast to Alexander Skarsgård, who is unfathomably awful as Alex's brother, Stone. Skarsgård is great as Eric on True Blood because he's cool as ice and never really loses his cool. He is the exact opposite here, completely over the top and stupidly dramatic!

Rihanna makes her screen debut as the Michelle Rodriguez archetype, but as an actress she makes a pretty good singer. Brooklyn Decker is the girlfriend, and she has huge breasts. Seriously, that is the only thing that is memorable about her character. And Liam Neeson is the crotchety old Admiral Shane, because he was Oskar Schindler and Michael Collins and Alfred Kinsey so he can do all the idiotic action movies he wants and you can't say shit about it!

Looks like she could use an umbrella ella ella ella

This really is a very weird movie for director Peter Berg to be making. Though he does specialize in big action, most of his movies, from Friday Night Lights to The Kingdom, have some sort of a brain. Ok, Hancock was an all out travesty, but at least it tried something interesting. But Berg just cannot salvage this thing. Battleship is far too stupid and far too big for Berg's sensibilities. He has gone on record about trying to portray the Navy in a way that they haven't been on screen before. He is clearly trying here, making an effort to think. I'm sorry, but when your product is trying so shamelessly to ape Transformers, thinking probably isn't what you should be doing. And it's not like Berg can't do pop entertainment well. He made one of the best, dopiest action movies of the last decade with The Rundown. 

Really, it's not all his fault. The script by Erich and Jon Hoeber is mired in cliché. You know instantly what is going to happen 20 minutes before it does. And dear god, does it meander. It takes, like, thirty minutes for the aliens to actually show up, another 15 before a single shot is fired, and another hour and thirty before it all wraps up in a hurried climax. Couple that with some atrocious dialogue, some questionable effects, and some of the ugliest alien design I've seen, and there's barely anything to recommend here.

But then it gets into act three. The first two acts are awful, and a good amount of that has to do with the fact that they take themselves way too seriously. There's no attempt at self-parody or humor; it's all just shouting and meaningful speeches. And then act three rolls around, and the movie switches gears completely. It completely ditches the seriousness and goes for flat out absurd.

Picture this...

A group of WWII veterans convert a museum battleship back into its combat ready state. They then help crew it and deliver some serious pain on the extra-terrestrial encroachers. A group of men epically carry a thousand pound explosive round down a hallway, roaring like beasts all the while. And then, I shit you not, a double amputee punches an alien in the face. I wish I was making that up. Will Smith proved that punching an alien in the face is always awesome, so I guess the only way you could make it more awesome is if you threw in some missing limbs.

The third act is what I wanted from the whole movie. It was crazy, over the top, and didn't take itself seriously at all. But most of all, it was sort of fun. A movie like this needs to be fun above all things, and the final third sort of was. But it's far too little, far too late. Battleship is one deplorable piece of work. It's trying so hard to copy the Transformers formula without first recognizing that which made Transformers special in the first place, that being... wait, hold on. What the hell am I saying?

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