The UnPopular Opinion: Battleship
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
When the idea was first floated to adapt the board game BATTLESHIP into a movie, I immediately drew my own conclusions and said f*ck you to everyone involved with the production. From the moment the TRANSFORMERS rip-off trailer hit the Internet, I wrote the film off as a piece of shit not worth my time. I read the reviews and none were anywhere near positive, so I ignored the movie entirely. Until last week. With 80% of my DVR filled with shows I needed to catch up on and feeling a bit under the weather, I threw on something brainless to fall asleep to. Lo and behold, BATTLESHIP was on. So I said, f*ck it, I will give it a go.
Believe it or not, I really liked it. BATTLESHIP will never be looked at in the annals of action movies as one of the all time classics, but it was a hell of a lot more fun than everyone let on. The special effects are top notch and the action scenes are aplenty. The movie feels like it could have been directed by Michael Bay, pre-TRANSFORMERS. Basically, it is a fun action movie that you can throw on at any time and just have fun. So, why the bad rap if it is not awful? Let's discuss.
REAL STEEL: The Naval Years
First off, there is criticism that the screenplay is awful. I am not going to say that Erich Hoeber and his brother Jon turned in a script that awards worthy but they did a pretty damn fine job for a movie based on a board game. And not even a board game with the semblance of a plot like Clue or Candyland but a literal strategy game with just ships and pegs. If you were anticipating something ground-shakingly good, then you probably were never going to like BATTLESHIP. To enjoy a movie like this you don't have to be crayons-up-your-nose-and-drool-on-the-floor stupid but you also need to step down from your high horse and let your suspension of disbelief explode.
Peter Berg has turned in some good directing work with the films HANCOCK, THE KINGDOM, and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Even his debut film VERY BAD THINGS had some good stuff going for it visually. Here, Berg doesn't get to do a whole lot outside of the run of the mill action but when he does he captures it clearly and lets you see every last detail. Some directors try to hide the shortcomings of their effects tools by using shaky camera movements or quick cuts, but BATTLESHIP lets you see the explosive carnage in all of it's PG-13 glory. Unlike Bay's TRANSFORMERS, BATTLESHIP wants to just blow shit up real good and screw the logic. Where TRANSFORMERS tries too hard to be great and fails miserably, BATTLESHIP is willing to wallow in its own crapulence.
Sir, their shields look like a giant umbrella, ella, ella, ella, ella.
So, what about the cast? Taylor Kitsch is in his normal kitschy mode (see what I did there?) and does just enough to progress the story. Rihanna is there as the relevant star to pull in the younger demographic and Brooklyn Decker is the necessary eye candy for the males who the movie is intended for. Plus you have Alexander Skarsgard and Liam Neeson, both of whom were hitting the peak of their popularity when BATTLESHIP was made. The whole group together plays like exactly the cast of ARMAGEDDON if it were made today. Just replace Kitsch for Ben Affleck, Neeson for Bruce Willis, Decker for Liv Tyler, and you have the same template. Sure, BATTLESHIP is cookie cutter, but even though you may be eating a cookie that isn't very good, I guarantee you will still finish it.
To complain that BATTLESHIP hits all of the right notes for a summer blockbuster and yet still sucks is like complaining about PACIFIC RIM. Guillermo Del Toro's monster movie is dumb fun that spews big words and scifi babbletalk to make it seem smarter than it is. In the end it is about humans beating the ever-loving shit out of aliens to save humanity. We don't flock to see these movies because they are the epitome of what movies are capable of being, we go to get a hard on for hot chicks and explosions.
How I imagine Brooklyn Decker would look after seeing me naked.
BATTLESHIP is military porn if anything. The movie plays like a commercial for joining the armed forces and fighting for not just America but everything America represents: truth, freedom, and what is right. When I stepped out of seeing INDEPENDENCE DAY, I wanted to be a fighter pilot like Will Smith. When I finished BATTLESHIP, I wanted to get behind a big ass gun and blow the shit out of some alien motherf*ckers. When a movie evokes a guttural reaction out of the viewer that doesn't involve wanting to punch the director in the face, that is a win.
Does BATTLESHIP have problems? Of course it does. After all, it is not exactly the best source material, but you cannot assign the same rating scale for a movie like this as you would for the films of Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. If one of those guys had directed BATTLESHIP, I would be right there lambasting them to hell and back. That is unless their intended purpose was to make a movie that was not trying to do anything but impress young men with Naval vessels shooting alien crafts out of the ocean. Because in that, BATTLESHIP succeeds.