Battleship: Boom, Boom, Boom
When the movie Battleship was announced, I had a hard time believing that it was true. Battleship is a tabletop game where two players never get to see each other’s playing field, and its all a matter of guesswork. There is far more to it of course, but I was left wondering how the gameplay would translate into a movie. I wondered if it could even be pulled off, and competently too. When I saw the movie, I found that particular aspect to be interesting. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so perhaps that made me more congenial to the approach used.
All the same though, Battleship is quite a decent movie. It was never going to win any awards, given that it just didn’t have all that much star power (or in a prominent role at that), but that was never my concern. I went in expecting a decent movie, and got it. Repeated viewings have only made it more palatable to me. Because sometimes you need a movie that is just about the big, loud action. And that’s what Battleship is. I’m totally fine with that.
You know the feeling when you go in to watch a movie with some high expectations but come out a little subdued and disappointed even though you had a fun time? That’s how I felt after watching Battleship. Coming off John Carter I expected Taylor Kitsch to deliver another great performance, just as I did with Liam Neeson, and I wanted a damn good adaptation of the board game, no matter how tough that actually sounds.
Thing is, while Battleship came close to making me really disappointed, it was still a good 2-hour movie, worth spending the ticket price and the popcorn/drinks price.
At its heart, Battleship is a naval-war movie, just like Top Gun was an aerial warfare movie, or Inglorious Basterds (or even Black Hawk Down) is an infantry war movie, albeit with a squads’ worth of troops. As such, it fits in perfectly with what the movie is supposed to be, which is, it is meant to influenced by the board game of the same name that I used to play back when I was a kid, and the same for most other people too. The pre-internet/social media generation always knew how to have fun!
Anyway, Battleship hits almost all the right notes when it comes to that particular detail. There are some great, thrilling scenes where the movie plays out very much like the board game itself, and the visuals are there too. My only gripe with that aspect though, is that these scenes were too few and far in between. The movie is about a fleet of naval warships, human and alien, duking out in the Pacific, but we actually get very little of that. That was a bit of a letdown. The big fireworks that I was really expecting just weren’t there. To give a reference as to what I mean, imagine you are going into a war-movie expecting to see something like the First Battle of Endor from Star Wars Ep VI: Return of the Jedi but instead what you get is a much smaller skirmish, by quite a few degrees.
The movie also begins at a really weird part of the script and the first 15-20 minutes of it could easily have been cut or reworked into something better. The only thing keeping me in my seat in those 15-20 minutes was the promise of seeing the big naval battles and the aliens’ arrival on Earth. The acting certainly didn’t wow me, and neither did the script itself in that time. Things do pick up after that however, when the fleet sets sail. And when I say fleet, I am talking about a combined fleet of warships under the flags of the United States and some of its allies from all over the world, gathered together to take part in some kind of soft Naval-version of the Olympics. Remember what I said up above about what I expected to see? Yeah, that ties in here big time.
However, you won’t really be disappointed when the sparks DO start flying. The alien ships’ arrival on Earth was a little too reminiscent of Transformers but it was still handled quite well, even with the rogue ship thrown in. I was actually startled when that happened. So job well done there. The first contact between the aliens and the combined fleet is a little slow, but it is full of adrenaline-pumping stuff from the get go. Guided missile destroyers against alien ships? Yes please! Some heart-wrenching moments in there though, and one of the first instances of the Battleship the board game influence as well, so overall, this was fantastic.
After that, the movie mostly progresses well, although a few bits of dialogue and then the inevitable Battleship revival scene are a little corny, and can make you cringe. Not to say that they weren’t enjoyable per se, but they could have been handled a lot better. And with a bit more realism because frankly, that particular sequence was moving far too fast for my liking. Being close to the climax, its a little dicey to have your script slow down and explain things to the viewer, but it would helped in this case. I went “hmm, really?” a few times but all in all, didn’t really mind it that much.
In terms of the acting, I’d have to say that it was mostly average, with no particular standouts. The script just doesn’t give the characters that much attention for them to properly develop because it is focused a little too much on the flash and Flash and FLASH.
Taylor Kitsch as the hero who is going to save the day was decent, albeit a little wooden in some parts. He doesn’t really come across as a proper naval officer but that was maybe the point since it’s pretty much his brother who forces him to join in an attempt to “make something of his life”. Not to mention, the whole regulation haircut thing doesn’t seem to suit him either. His looks were much better in John Carter and X-men Origins: Wolverine. He manages to redeem himself towards the ending but by then I was pretty much resigned to the performance so it didn’t matter as much to me. It all goes back to expectations and in that regard, the film is certainly disappointing. It manages to hold on its own but there are too many instances of where it could really have been a lot better.
Brooklyn Decker, as Taylor Kitsch’s love interest, was another decent performance although she is much underused. Her role appears to be… quite incidental to the whole thing and I’m not sure if that really works for this movie or not. Not a particularly strong character by any stretch but she was ok.
Alexander Skarsgård, as Taylor Kitsch’s elder brother and captain of his own destroyer, was a strong supporting actor but unfortunately, and once again, he doesn’t really get to shine. His role is there as an apparently token effort to move the plot along (as you will no doubt see in the film) but still, he was the best of the bunch by far. He looked like a proper naval officer and a competent one too, so it worked in his favour all the way because he had the intensity and the attitude down to a T.
Rihanna, as a weapons specialist under Kitsch’s senior weapons officer, was mostly a treat. She has few scenes in the movie, but as far as I am concerned, she did quite well. Improvements could have been made with regards to the things that made Skarsgård so good, but overall, she was fun. Her dialogue was witty and serious at the right moments and when it came to kick to put some hot shells in the enemy ships, Petty Officer Second Class Cora Reikes is someone you want on your side.
Liam Neeson was far, far too underused. His character made almost no pertinent contribution to the script because he never was there in the thick of things. His role was that of a token hardline Admiral faced with the (often) antics and screw-ups of the lead character (Kitsch) and the father of the female lead. Average role that only gets an average performance because there is, once again, no room for development. He commands the American Pacific Fleet for crying out loud! Justice was not delivered and its a shame.
Other characters, none of which are really that major, made some impressions but nothing to talk about. Decent, average performances all around and that’s that on that front.
Pacing wise, the beginning was rocky as I said earlier but things pick up and then keep going. The scenes with the aliens doing their thing on the American ships and in Hawaii were exactly what I expected them to be like. Hard-ass in the sense that you get they are a genuine, mega-threat and really, really fun to watch. Would have loved to see more of them because they were superbly sophisticated and realistically badass aliens, yet they weren’t over the top in any way or even too easy to beat by the good guys. That’s always a good thing, right?
The visuals were certainly impressive. From the RIMPAC fleet (the fleet of international warships led by Liam Neeson’s Admiral Shane) sailing on for its maneuvers in the pacific to the alien ships, the naval duke-outs, the aliens and everything else, it was a joy. Nothing too mind-blowing, but certainly with enough jazz to make you appreciate the effort that went in and have a bit of fun with it.
The movie’s score is also quite good. It is appropriate to the scenes and is rousing and introspective in all the right places, so that’s another point in Battleship‘s favour. I have a mind to get the album because its just that good. Would be interesting to see how it works as writing music in fact, which is the major reason why I buy film OSTs all the time.
So yeah, that’s Battleship in a nutshell. The trailer oversells the movie a little bit but don’t be too disheartened by that fact. As long as you don’t go in expecting to see something as mind-blowing as Inglorious Basterds or The Dark Knight Rises, you’ll be fine. Got to temper those expectations a little bit and once you do, you’ll have a fun time watching the movie. It’s a good movie overall and once I certainly would recommend.
Posted on February 18, 2014, in General and tagged Action, Alexander Skarsgard, Aliens, and Liam Neeson, Battleship, Brooklyn Decker, Film, Film Review, Military SF, Movie, Movie Adaptation, Movie Review, Naval SF, Peter Berg, Review, Review Central, Rihanna, Science Fiction, Tabletop Game, Tadanobu Asano, Taylor Kitsch, Universal Pictures. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.