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Among the powerhouse summer movies of 2012 like ‘The Avengers’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, ‘Battleship’ came along seeking to break through to the big leagues. Unfortunately, a terrible script, titanic-sized plotholes, and awful characterization has left it floating upside down and ready to be flushed down the toilet.
‘Battleship’ was not shy about its origins or its intentions in its advertisements. Hasbro proudly left its mark on the film and promised a glorious battle with special effects that attempt to rival Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise.
However, while Michael Bay is one of the most heavily criticized filmmakers in the business, the man does his homework and ‘Battleship’, whose producers share this film and Bay’s films, obviously tried to emulate him. Despite your opinion on the quality of Bay’s work, he is good at two things: one, excellent action sequences; two, genuinely funny dialogue. ‘Battleship’ tries to pull these things off and fumbles magnificently at both.
For those who may not know the so-called plot, ‘Battleship’ is about a race of aliens from a planet codenamed G who have come to Earth to conquer it. The government discovered Planet G and sent out a signal via satellite to analyze its surface to see if it could possibly have life or be hospitable for human beings.
Apparently, this signal attracted the aliens and they sent five enormous ships to Earth. One of them, the communication ship, crashed into Hong Kong, meaning that the aliens could not communicate with their brethren in space. Therefore, they took over the command center in Hawaii that sent the first signal and planned to use it to contact reinforcements.
Meanwhile, three other battle cruisers engaged the U.S. Navy and Japanese Navy in combat for unknown reasons. These ships are where the main protagonist, Alex Hooper (Taylor Kitsch), and his brother, Stone Hooper (Alexander Skarsgard), struggle to survive as they are woefully outmatched by the alien’s technology and weaponry.
It is hard to pinpoint all the reasons why this movie is lousy, but we’ll start with the obvious one—the plot. There are plotholes the size of canyons in this film. We can start with the fact that the aliens are never identified nor do they even speak to each other. Thus, they are painted as barbarian monsters with only one purpose in mind—conquering the world. However, the way they go about trying to conquer the world is perhaps the most illogical thing I’ve seen since ‘Cowboys & Aliens’.
The aliens only attack three ships and it is never explained why they target these vessels, nor why they decided to use missiles when the gigantic orbs they possess can sink a ship in mere minutes. They are also implied to use some sort of analysis similar to the Predator where they only attack things that present a threat, but that is immediately contradicted because they attack the Earth and its inhabitants’ military with no provocation.
The next major problem is the inept characterization of our main character, Alex Hooper. He is not a likable fellow and he barely develops by the end of the film. Taylor Kitsch is a decent actor, as is shown in the woefully underrated ‘John Carter’ (2012), but he has almost nothing to work with due to a cliché-riddled script that even ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ (2009) would laugh at.
Most of his character traits are told through other characters instead of shown and so they have little impact on the audience. The character is so predictable, irrational, and unlikable that we feel no real concern for him as he gets kicked around by the aliens.
The third problem lies in the characterization and actions of the U.S. Navy. The real-life Navy cooperated with the filmmakers and somehow was blind to the fact that they made the entire branch seem like a bunch of idiot children. Through the course of the film, we are led to believe these are trained professionals and yet they make rookie mistakes at every turn.
For instance, after destroying part of the alien ships, the crew pulls one of the aliens on board. Alex decides to pull off its helmet to see what they’re dealing with and yet none of them think to ready their weapons in case the alien is still alive. Predictably, it wakes up and causes havoc that they are unable to stop because none of them are armed. This is basic common sense and these people do not utilize it at any point in the film.
The only things of merit in this movie are the special effects, which feature enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush, and a few decent action sequences. The acting ranges from okay to downright terrible, the dialogue is stuffed to the gills with clichés, and the plot is ridiculous at best and trite at worst.
Furthermore, there are two things that add insult to injury. First, the amazing Liam Neeson is advertised non-stop in the trailers and yet only has about ten minutes of screen time in the entire film. Second, no one says, “you sunk my battleship.” For a movie that claims to be self-aware and does not take itself seriously, that is criminal.
The low quality of ‘Battleship’ comes as no surprise, though. It opened second at the box office on May 18 with a measly $25 million and will sink to the depths of the movie theater in the coming weeks. Good riddance.
Image Courtesy of Battleship