Digital Digressions: Battleship

This last weekend, Battleship hit the silver-screen in theaters and being a child of terrible board games AND cheesy movies, it was imperative that it’d be seen. Trying something new with this review, though… rather than a standard format break-down of the movie, we got together and did a sort of “fly-on-the-wall” chat where we review the movie, things we liked and disliked and just generally banter as we usually do.  If this works out well, hoping to make this a regular series. For now, however, enjoy our thoughts on…

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Paul: What were we expecting from Battleship, anyways?

Nathan: Well, I guess I just wanted something akin to a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Just something big, loud and stupid with Liam Neeson in it. So…yeah, not high.

Paul: That’s essentially what we got, minus the Liam Neeson unless you count the 15 minutes screen-time he gets…

Nathan: Doing nothing of note, yeah. Those are the expectations I entered with, but they skyrocketed in maybe the first ten minutes when they started explaining their alien invasion premise. Apparently I’m a sucker for any kind of new spin (alien ships being…ships is kinda new, right?), so I got pretty jazzed about that. And then I was, eventually, disappointed.

Paul: I think the premise was pretty interesting; as usual, we’re trying to expand our knowledge of the universe and in doing so find a way to slingshot a message or beacon across space… ala Contact.

Nathan: Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to be reminded of Contact at all going into this film, so the fact that they were mining kinda/sorta similar subject matter had me pretty excited. And we actually discovered a planet in the Goldilocks zone (“we” being humanity) not too long ago, so this was kind of tapping on some stuff I’ve been interested in lately. And, you know, Rihanna. (“so live your life, ehh-ehh-ehhhh!”…words to live by)

Paul: So yeah, there was a lot to like to start off with. First, we get a ridiculous intro that introduces the main character in a very silly sitcom situation where he gets in trouble one too many times and as a punishment has to join the Navy with his brother.

Nathan: Solid late title card moment right there. Had me laughing.

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Paul: Cut to a soccer game that the movie took WAYYY too seriously and made overly dramatic between the United States and Japanese Navy teams during a “war games” situation.  Pretty funny stuff, likely the best acting in the whole movie… oh, and also Rihanna makes her appearance at this point too. Very “Vasquez”-like character as the tough army grunt.

Nathan: Yeah, Vasquez sprang to mind as well. Definitely seemed to be what they were trying for. “Mahalo Motherfu—”

Paul: This movie has enforced in my mind that Rihanna as an actress is the poor-man’s Michelle Rodriguezthough… and I don’t even like Rodriquez.

Nathan: Well, maybe not poor. She is Rihanna after-all, so she must have gotten some amount of money from this. No idea why she chose a board game adaptation as her film debut. Her agent is an odd one.

Paul: Either way, at first her acting was gimmicky and kind of enjoyable because everything she said was a stitch and had me rolling in the floors laughing from how stupid she sounded… unfortunately, however, the gimmick wore off eventually and I just found her irritating by the end.

Nathan: I got irritated towards the end of the film as well, but I blame where the plot ended up going (or rather, not going) over Rihanna’s admittedly terrible acting abilities. Basically, I really sympathized with the aliens and found the meatheaded Navy characters incredibly frustrating. “Let’s call a distant alien planet. Oh, they responded by launching some ships here and acting defensively when we shot at them? BLOW ‘EM UP, that’s how we doing things here in ‘merica!” *AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” plays*

Paul: Agreed. It was strange because the direction they were taking with the aliens seemed a bit lost in many parts. First of all, they are only retaliating when they’re being attacked and do their best to simply disarm their foes… but all of a sudden shit gets all Michael Bay and giant Yo-Yos start destroying freeways and killing random people while also sparing a small child playing baseball.

Nathan: Yeah, I don’t know what they were getting at with that freeway bit. I guess no one explicitly gets mauled by those things, they are just destroying our infrastructure for…some reason. I got the weird sense the aliens hated or feared our technology but, again, they didn’t really delve into that side of things. They did, however, seem to emphasize their refusal to kill unarmed people (not unlike Predators), and with the exception of one really terrible scene that I suspect was the product of re-shoots, nothing really indicates they have evil intent for our planet (that bit where Taylor Kitsch gets touched by an alien and has a weird, vague vision of…something)

Paul: I got touched by an alien once… I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it a little bit and blame myself for it afterwards…

Nathan: Mysterious Skin, available now on Netflix Instant.

Paul: But yeah, back on track a little bit… I realized that I have a bad habit of trying to contextualize too much from very little in movies.  This has both ruined twists for me in some movies because I kind of saw it coming when they foreshadow appropriately but in movies like this, I think it’s just giving way too much credit where it isn’t due.  For example, the whole time I was thinking that Battleship was going to be a brilliant satire with a poignant message about how humanity should demilitarize or face its own doom and that the aliens were just here to either try to help us realize this or force it by their own hand.  There are a few parts where they completely overlook people until they’re holding a weapon or threat and then they proceed to disarm rather than just obliterate those people… but then again, they do random shit like take out an entire freeway and I’m left wondering what the hell is going on again and I think that is the most frustrating part.  They’re so close to accidentally making an extremely intelligent satirical movie but fail.

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Nathan: I don’t think I’d go as far as “extremely intelligent” but a kind of poor-man’s Day the Earth Stood Still seemed in reach at some point and they just veered off into the land of explosions and rocking music that rocks. I like me some montages but…this one just hurt my brain.

Paul: But that’s also why this movie is frustrating… if they had gone further to just make a ridiculous “AMERICA FUCK YEAH!” movie it would have been more enjoyable as well. I find it ironic that they speak of the “Goldilocks Zone” because that’s exactly where this movie is… it’s  tepid and boring when it could have been cool or hot.

Nathan: Cool as in bad, right? It wasn’t aggressively bad, but…yeah, I see what you’re saying. I wish it either went full-tilt stupid or all-the-way clever, but it just kind of floundered around for two hours and ten minutes and then really abruptly ended. How quickly this thing wrapped up was another indication to me this movie may have been re-tooled some. But that may just be me rationalizing its inconsistent tone.

Paul: I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a movie at least have a consistent tone.  But let’s be 100% honest here too… this IS a board game movie and we really only went into it to see what ridiculous stuff from the Hasbro game they’d incorporate.  I know, personally, the WHOLE time, I was waiting to hear “You Sunk My Battleship!”.

Nathan: Oh, I fully acknowledge I’m largely to blame for my own disappointment. That I let myself expect anything out of this movie likely seems absurd to any third party. But yeah, I was hoping for a “Pretty Sneaky Sis!” (despite that reportedly being from a DIFFERENT toy commercial) or some such corniness and what I got was…well, unsatisfactory in that respect as well. They DO use pegs as weapons and at some point a man does use the words “sink” and “battleship” in the same sentence so…yay?

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Paul: Let’s also not forget that the whole field of battle turns out to be a grid at one point as well… with the commanding officers calling out coordinates and everything. Also, I know you personally didn’t enjoy it, but the part where they actually DO get onto a Battleship was probably the highlight of the movie for me and I was almost in tears from laughing so hard.  That alone was likely worth admission for me, but I don’t think I can with good conscience recommend anyone pay to see this movie in theaters… especially for anything more than the simple $13 admission.
Maybe for Brooklyn Decker?… She does fill out a tank-top nicely.

Nathan: I guess…I don’t know. Her whole subplot that felt the need to tackle the plight of disabled soldiers seemed comically out of place in the movie. But yeah, I think it’s safe to say no one needs to see this movie. It isn’t ironically funny enough, nor is it smart enough (though…you really shouldn’t have expected it to be) to warrant the time. I’d honestly like to hear from the writers, Erich and Jon Hoeber of Red fame, whether their script was altered in any way, but I’ll probably never get to know that.

Paul: Agreed. I think you and I might have been more disappointed in what it DIDN’T offer than what it did.

Nathan: Yeah. If you want to see some explosions, some ships sinking (with admittedly good CGI) and Brooklyn Decker in a tank-top, run, don’t walk, to your nearest theater. If you want anything more than that in an alien-themed film, just watch Contact or Independence Day. Those seem to represent the polar-opposite directions this film should have gone in. Oh, and if you want a good board-game movie, Clue still can’t be beat.Digital Digressions: Battleship