#58 Battleship

Battleship (2012)

Dir: Peter Berg

This was ostensibly based on the classic game… Yeah right!

I can’t be bothered to go into the mixed up over-saturated storyline in much detail, but essentially the U.S. navy and other navies have ships doing manoeuvres near Hawaii, and a far off ‘Goldilocks’ planet decides that day to send a reply to Earth’s communications beacon, in the form of craft that crash into the sea near the navel craft. When they investigate, the alien device puts up a large force field around the area trapping a few craft and islands inside, and it’s up to the officers there, led by a hotheaded and soon to be dismissed Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitch) to take command and save the world.

Let’s get to the truth of the situation. Transformers made huge amounts of money, so did the two sequels despite the decreasing quality of their storylines. This proved to Hasbro and film studios that if they made effects-laden movies with lots of noise and explosions and cut back on development time in terms of storyline they could churn out films that made huge amounts of money. Hence Hasbro approached studios with the view to developing more movies with their properties, and this was the result.

Peter Berg, the director, has made some decent films before, including ‘Hancock’ which I own and enjoyed more on repeat viewing, also with CGI and explosions, but wrapped around a decent story. In 2007 he also did another film featuring the military ‘The Kingdom’, which was a very intelligent look at the U.S. war against terrorism. He let himself and the military down with this one though. The U.S. navy is made to look pretty stupid that this Lieutenant (with a criminal record) who is so unruly that he’s about to be dismissed, can still have risen through the ranks in a few years and be in a position that he ends up in charge of a whole battleship, oh, and dating the Admiral’s daughter. Other officers don’t come across much better than that either, speaking in such stereotyped ways and with overblown phrases, even noted at one point by a civilian asking ‘who really talks like that?’. The answer is nobody.

The writers obviously saw the risk of their portrayal of the military, and cobbled together a side-plot, that involves the Admiral’s daughter (and Hopper’s girlfriend) being a physiotherapist, who helps rehabilitate servicemen who have lost limbs. This leads to her trapped on a hillside walk within the aforementioned force field with one such Lieutenant Colonel who is a double leg amputee, and it’s up to them to stop the aliens from calling home for reinforcements. The sequence of the physio at work and then the Lieutenant Colonel who overcomes his disability to help save the world, is such a push to make the film seem positive towards the military, but is so ridiculous that it ends up being patronising.

Now, as for the lead star Taylor Kitch, his inclusion in this makes things even more interesting. Kitch was the eponymous ‘John Carter’ in the film that was released just one month before this, and made headlines and history, as the biggest financial flop ever. That obviously spooked the people behind this, and rather than sending Kitch out as a spokesman for this film to inevitably be asked questions about that flop rather than this film, they went for their other headlining star, the singer Rihanna. Really, she should have been little more than a cameo or a small role for fun to ease her into acting, but rather ended up being the face of this film in promotion rather than trying to push it on the strength of an actor who was best known for being the lead in such a massive failure just weeks earlier.

For more ‘Transformers’ comparisons too, they were all scored by the same person, and so this film sounds exactly like they did musically, turning it into feeling like ‘Transformers at Sea’. However, the ‘Transformers’ films made huge profits, they all cost millions less than this, and took at least 4x their costs at the box office. ‘Battleship’ however cost $209 million to make, and took just over $303 million at the box office, making it a failure comparatively, especially if you factor in the promotional and ancillary costs.

I enjoyed the first ‘Transformers’ film as though it was silly the storyline actually made some sense enough to hold together while you enjoyed the spectacle. This however is just retreading overdone sci-fi ground, and tries to push aliens into a game that was just about finding and hitting boats on a board.

Battleship therefore was hit… and sunk.



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