Coming in 2013: Judge Patrick Naugle stars in MONOPOLY!
Make your move.
You know Hollywood is running out of ideas when it starts pillaging simplistic childhood board games for story inspiration. Heck, the next thing you know they'll be stripping our childhood toys down into big budget…Oh, wait. Never mind.
Anyhow, get ready to have your dingy sunk with the cautionary tale Battleship, care of Universal Home Entertainment!
Facts of the Case
I refuse to actually spend precious time—time that could be spent holding my family close, telling my dog how much I love him, or ladling soup for the poor—giving a detailed plot synopsis of a movie based on a game played with plastic ships and pegs. If you are interested in seeing a bunch of young Hollywood actors run around a souped up oceanliner for two hours trying to destroy an alien menace inside a giant bubbled force field while Liam Neeson (a long way from Taken or The Grey) growls orders at everyone, Battleship is your movie.
The rest of you can movie along. Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing to see.
I can pinpoint one of the main reasons why Battleship doesn't work: It's too damn long. I mean, my Lord, who needs a movie based on a kid's board game to be over two hours in length? What's next? Chutes & Ladders: The Five Hour Epic Director's Cut? Do filmmakers truly feel that—if audiences get an extra half hour of explosions, aliens, and people yelling at each other to "look out!"—we'll be that much happier? It's like McDonald's hamburgers: one is filling, two you're stuffed, anything more makes you sick. And I am officially sick of bloated summer action movies.
I actually paid money to see Battleship in theaters, so I have no one to blame but myself for seeing this movie twice. I knew going in it was considered a shiny turd, but risked my sanity anyhow. I watched it a second time for review, to see if I missed something crucial. Hey, I hated Last Action Hero and Escape from L.A. the first I saw them, and now love both films, so a 180 wasn't totally out of the question. Alas, Battleship is not a film that gets better with age or multiple viewings. It's a loud, dumb, brainless action flick that feels as routine as many straight-to-DVD titles.
Make no mistake, the action sequences are slickly designed and well-executed. After a while, I became numb to watching giant Transformer-esque star cruisers launch attacks at Navy vessels, while giant mechanical rolling balls of energy took out helicopters, aliens stampeded around a mountain, giant war ships exploded into fireballs, and…well, you get the picture. Director Peter Berg—whose last film was the better-but-not-by-much superhero flick Hancock—wants so badly to out-Michael-Bay Michael Bay. Nothing in this movie happens without an explosion large enough to rock three separate cities to their core. It's all sound and fury signifying nothing, which I realize is a clichéd statement, but so is Battleship, so there you go.
I'd tell you the characters are all one-note cutouts without much personality, but that seems insulting to single notes and cutouts. Hey look! There's pop star Rihanna as a navel officer looking like pop star Rihanna with a tomboy haircut! Seriously, when that's the first thing you think of, after glimpsing one of the cast members, you know you're in trouble. Poor leading man Taylor Kitsch might be having the worst year ever. First, he showed up in this spring's high profile disaster John Carter (also a terribly long and uninteresting alien adventure) and followed it up with this disaster. Talk about a painful one-two punch. As an actor, Kitsch is only okay. Thus far, I've not seen a single reason why he should be front and center in any film, much less one whose budget could feed half of Wisconsin for a month.
Character actors like Alexander Skarsgård (HBO's True Blood) and Jesse Plemons (Paul) float in and out of the movie, for no reason other than to include some up and coming faces. Model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker's (Just Go With It) character has no reason to exist, except to offer up a love interest for Kitsch's character. All she does is climb a mountain and look pretty. No, really…all she does is climb a mountain and look pretty. Liam Neeson? Ha! For those thinking this is a Liam Neeson action movie—as was touted in the trailers—I've got bad news for you: Neeson shows up at the beginning and the end, in what amounts to a glorified cameo role. The only person worth noting here is Gregory D. Gadson, a real life military vet who lost is legs during his time in the service. It's refreshing to see someone with a real disability given a role as an action hero, so kudos to Berg for that nice touch.
Now comes the exciting part: Does Battleship have anything to do with its namesake? Shockingly, yes. As hard as it is to believe, near the end of the movie, the navel crew actually plays what amounts to a big screen version of the classic board game with the alien invaders. It's almost laughable how this gets shoehorned into the plot (I can't be sure, but I think someone even muttered the words "sank" and "battleship"). As my eyes rolled back into my head, I realized Battleship had not only lost any credibility, but became the kid on the playground everyone's laughing at.
Those hoping for a boatload of explosions and action will be thrilled. Those who like a modicum of intelligence and finesse in their action movies will be sorely disappointed. A lot of stuff gets "blowed up real good" during Battleship, and yet there's nothing really behind it all. The pyrotechnics exist solely to show us ships exploding, guns firing, and alien technology going ballistic. Enjoyment can be found here, but only if you're in the right state of mind. Namely, under heavy medication.
Presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen in 1080p high definition widescreen with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, I'm discussing both components together because, quite simply, they look and sound perfect. Whatever your thoughts are on Battleship, there's no arguing the fact that it sports a fantastic A/V presentation. The transfer is crystal clear with deep blues and bright orange explosions. The audio is sonically bombastic and will give any home theater system a heavy workout. All in all this is a reference quality disc.
Bonus features include an "All Access Pass" with director Peter Berg that features a picture-in-picture video commentary (with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews); Second Screen Experience which allows the viewer to sync their laptop or tablet to the movie for bonus content; a pre-viz alternate ending; a several featurettes ("The USS Missouri," "Preparing for Battle," "All Hands on Deck: The Cast," "Engage in Battle," "Commander Pete," "The Visual Effects"); bookmarking functionality; plus bonus DVD and Digital copies of the film.
Battleship is a mess of a movie that teeters on the edge of so-bad-it's-good, without ever falling to one side or the other. The end result is a two-hour special effects sizzle reel. Somewhere, Milton Bradley is spinning in his grave.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• All Access Pass
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.