Thursday, 1 December 2016

BAD MOVIE JAMBOREE: Battleship (Peter Berg, 2012)

You know a movie is bad when the DVD has no extras and you have to sit through 10 ads just to get to the menu.

2012 was the year of Taylor Kitsch — only he probably wishes you’d forget it. John Carter and Battleship were infamous for their bloated budgets, mixed (at best) critical reception and box office failure. Sadly neither of these movies is the outright disaster they are made out to be. John Carter is a bland sword and sandal fantasy that cost way too much money and came out about six decades past its use-by date. 

Battleship tells the story of Alex Hopper (Kitsch). He's a loose cannon who is wasting his life away on pranks and drinking, until his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) forces him to join him in enlisting in the Navy. Alex is one of those movie loose cannons who are super-talented but can't help getting in their own way. Being an idiot hasn't stopped him from getting a supermodel girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker) and becoming an officer on a ship (I lost interest in the specifics).

Aliens attack and Alex has to grow up fast in order to defeat the aliens and protect his crew. Blah. Blah. Blah. Boom.

The cast do their best. Kitsch is fine but has nothing to do as the hero -- especially considering he is just a collection of military outsider clichés. Decker is not terrible, but she wasn’t cast for her acting. Alexander Skarsgaard cannot hide his accent. 

Rihanna is kind of just there (as Alonso Duralde puts it, “She falls somewhere between Mariah Carey in Glitter, and Mariah Carey in Precious”). Liam Neeson is in it for minutes — probably too busy doing Taken movies. 

What is striking about Battleship is not that it is bad — it’s that it’s not that far from decent. The main flaw is the disjunction between the ridiculous premise and the earnest execution. This movie is working so hard to make us swallow this premise without laughing — and yet for every moment that clicks, another negates it with silliness. Director Peter Berg is a better storyteller than Michael Bay, but suffers from the same obsession with blind worship of images of American military might.

The movie has the same off-putting sense of sincerity and reverence for the military as Michael Bay's Transformers movies. Take that scene from Transformers 3 where Optimus Prime talks to Buzz Aldrin and stretch that awkwardness out for two hours -- that's Battleship. The movie includes a completely tone deaf subplot about a war veteran (played by real-life war veteran and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson) learning to walk on his new prosthesis. The juxtaposition of this real life trauma with CG aliens, swimsuit models, burrito gags and Rihanna is just wrong. 

In the end, Battleship isn’t memorably horrible. It’s just an expensive mediocrity. 

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