Wednesday, 18 April 2012

REVIEW: Battleship

In the mid 2000's, a message is beamed out daily from a satellite in Oahu, Hawaii, to a possibly inhabitable Goldilocks planet (which, by the way, is a legitimate concept) named Planet G. In the year 2012, at the commencement of naval war games, aliens answer the signal by beginning their invasion. It's up to a few hundred brave sailors  - and a few civilians and retired soldiers on land - to save the human race from extinction.

Dear me, I really did struggle to write that description up there. It's the very essence of an excuse plot - of course it is, it's based off of the boardgame Battleship - but it's not done well. Sometimes excuse plots are great (see: most Pokémon things. Fight me) but this movie was horridly thrown together and the plot and pacing were laughably weak. It's hard to laugh when you've spent money on movie tickets, though.

Despite that, the problem was not lack of ideas, but more a lack of follow through on the many ideas presented. Warning, spoilers ahoy. There was an interesting concept introduced relatively early in the piece (and I say relatively, meaning soon after the actual plot had begun, which took far too long to happen, but more on that later) that indicated that, for one reason or another, the invading aliens wanted to destroy machinery but intended to leave life forms alone. Or at least, leave them unharmed. This was introduced in a fairly clever way. Naturally, I assumed that when they took the time to introduce the concept through the scene with the boy on the baseball field, they would take that concept somewhere further and elaborate later.

This did not happen. There was no explanation as to why the aliens didn't want life forms dead. Sure, the audience could've extrapolated for themselves (I was personally going for the obvious theory of using Earth life as livestock), but that doesn't make up for the fact that it lazily left open. In the end, it came off as a contrived plot device to make the technologically superior aliens kill less humans. Again, had a motive been explained, it could've been a good idea, but just tacking on something like 'by the way if you're not in machinery you're safe' in order to let the protagonists get into stickier situations and come out alive is lazy and cheap.

The pacing of the plot also felt quite choppy, but at the same time, too drawn out. Of course, that second part might be hugely influenced by the fact that I loathed this film. I readily admit that. The set up took far too long for a movie that didn't have a huge amount to set up. Even once the alien ships appeared and started wrecking havoc, it still lumbered along and took a long while to get into gear. Action movies should not lumber.

To be perfectly fucking blunt, I didn't even feel like this movie had characters. There were moving pictures on the screen that certainly looked a hell of a lot like people and they did some stuff, but they weren't real people. I'll clarify now though, I don't believe this was a fault of the actors. I'll get to that in the acting section (but the long story short of that is that I really have no problems with the acting in the movie).

The attempts at characterisation - when they were present at all - felt hamfisted and halfassed. For example, take the whole beginning sequence. That was probably supposed to establish Hopper as that 'lovable fuckwad' archetype that's been floating around pretty often these days. Sure, it did a good job of that, but none of that personality showed through in the rest of the movie. Characterisation wasn't even secondary to the plot, it was virtually nonexistant. 

Sure, there were a few characters with key traits. The retired soldier with the missing legs was resilient and admirable. Who woulda thunk it? The Hollywood nerd was Hollywood awkward. It didn't make up for anything, though. I didn't really sympathise with anyone. I didn't care about the characters or what happened to them. It wasn't just me being a sullen fart either, my sister agrees. So you know it's true. Yep.

You know, the acting wasn't half bad. There wasn't room to shine in the script, though, so there was nothing stellar that I could see. Honestly, I can't really think of anything to say beyond that.

The way they used the buoys to reflect an actual game of Battleship was really clever. I'll give them that little victory. The special effects and makeup used to create the aliens and their ships and so on was pretty cool, too. I can't complain about how the movie looked. Everything was aesthetically pleasing. Overall, though, Battleship sucked.

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