Review: ‘Battleship’ is Pretty Dumb, But Kind of Sweet

Hey, you guys get two reviews this week. Two? I thought this one was just a day early. Or a day late and 400 words longer than I’d intended. Who knew I had so much to say about Battleship? Anyway, come back tomorrow for my review of Men in Black 3. It’ll be…out of this world. You’re an awful human being. Only when I talk.

Battleship (2012):

Universal Pictures.
Lens flares!

The Plot: Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a rebel without a cause. When his brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) gets tired of cleaning up after his mistakes, Alex gets an ultimatum: shape up by joining the Navy, or melt in the face of his brother’s fury. But even though he cuts his hair, becomes a Lieutenant, and starts dating an Admiral’s daughter (Brooklyn Decker), Alex is still a rebel! Fortunately, aliens attack, and Alex gets a chance to finally become a leader.

While you’d expect a movie about a rebel fighting aliens and giant machines to celebrate his rebel status *cough Transformers cough*, Battleship is about a guy learning to put his ego aside and become both a good Officer and a decent man. Somehow, this is a movie that values its characters. Well, it tries to. The development and depth work only about half of the time, but it’s endearing that they made the effort. Clearly, the filmmakers were taking cues from something other than Transformers, aesthetic similarities aside. Sure, there’s a fair amount of mindless action, but there’s also a romance, a Bromance, and a crippled veteran learning to live with his loss. A lot of people didn’t like that last part, but it suggested to me that the filmmakers had a genuine affection for the military. I appreciate that.

Something else that I really liked is that the aliens are treated as more than evil cannon-fodder. They’re from an Earth-like planet, and act a lot like our military, in terms of tactics and attempts to avoid civilian casualties wherever possible. They’re on Earth to set up communications for an invasion. Even if their weapons are more powerful, the aliens are still unprepared to launch a full out invasion, which makes the fact that the humans win—SPOILER—a little more believable.

Why are the aliens invading? For resources. It’s easy to draw parallels to recent U.S. activity in the Middle East, but Battleship doesn’t strike me as a political satire. Besides, it’s not like the U.S. is the only country to ever occupy another. And you know what? My knowledge of military tactics is a little shaky, but I have the feeling that most countries do it the same. Really, any parallels to real-world conflicts are there to humanize the enemy. Isn’t that neat? Again with the character development! Crazy, I know.

I’d hate for you guys to get the idea that this is a good movie. It’s pretty bad. But I wanted to do justice to the parts of it that worked before I went into the stuff that didn’t. And honestly, there’s not much I can say about the bad stuff that you couldn’t figure out from the trailer. But there were a few things that bothered me a crap ton. So I will tell you about those things.

To begin with, Taylor Kitsch is woefully miscast. He’s likeable enough, but he just doesn’t have that leading man charisma. I believed him as the clean cut Commander’s f*ck up younger brother, but not so much as the world-saving action hero. It’s kind of like how Ethan Hawke should never, ever, play the main character in a movie. Ever. On top of that, there’s a moment of huge dramatic potential for his character that’s pretty much passed over for another bland CGI action sequence.

Creative Commons Optimus!

Creative Commons
Optimus!

Which brings me to complaint numero dos. Ooh. Spanish. That’s so exotic. You like it? I picked it up from Telemundo. I mentioned earlier that the film is cursed by a Transformers-esque visual aesthetic. The machines look like they came from the recesses of Michael Bay’s brain. All of the alien technology—everything from space suits to Battleships—seems to be made of extraneous whirly bits of metal. Why? Blenders are just in this season, I guess. That must be it.

Remember in last week’s review, when I complained about over-powered villains having to hold back so that the good guys can win? Yeah, that happens here, too. Kind of. The filmmakers do attempt to explain why the aliens don’t just destroy the weaker human Battleships—they won’t fire at anything that isn’t attacking them—but it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. The Battleship that you were fighting two seconds ago is probably still a threat, even if it isn’t fighting you this very second.

Overall, though, I enjoyed watching Battleship. It tries just hard enough to be endearing, making some of its shortcomings almost forgivable. Will I watch it again? Probably not. But it was a decent blockbuster that I didn’t regret seeing. And that’s pretty cool.

2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Battleship’ is Pretty Dumb, But Kind of Sweet

  1. Some noticeably intentionally cheesy moments in the movie. Didn’t get the feeling that it meant for itself to be taken entirely seriously.

  2. I agree. For me, that’s one of the things that made it so enjoyable. It takes a pretty ridiculous premise, acknowledges that it’s ridiculous, and just runs with it. I always love it when you can tell that the filmmakers were having fun.

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