Monday, May 28, 2012
Now, on some level it would be easy to hate "Battleship" for its very existence. Its trying to be a Michael Bay movie... and it fails to do even that. However, failing at being "Transformers" means that the movie ultimately is somewhat watchable and is not horribly annoying and stupid, so "Battleship" actually avoids being the Worst Goddamn Movie Ever Made and instead becomes merely mediocre. If not, perhaps, just a little fun. If you're walking in expecting a turd sandwich, you'll find its actually a cheeseburger, and cheeseburgers, though terrible for your digestive system, are edible. Don't get me wrong, "Battleship" is NOT a good movie, oh God no. I'm actually proud of the American people for being too smart to fall for this crap*, maybe its a sign that finally the "Transformers" formula has been recognized as a fraudulent imitation at making real action movies. Or maybe the collective American shared consciousness has an irrational hatred of Taylor Lich, I dunno.
But let's get down to turkey: "Battleship" sucks. It doesn't suck from beginning to end, it doesn't suck at its very soul. This is a movie that only exists to be very stupid entertainment, and that's so nicely innocent and harmless compared to the "Transformers" movies attempts to destroy Western Civilization. There are too many things wrong with this movie to recommend. Its like a big doggy that knocks you over trying to lick your face. Can you hate that? He's just trying to be lovable... and failing. Aren't the "Transformers" movies just trying to entertain also? Perhaps. I don't believe that for a second, though. "Battleship" is trying to just entertain, so its not evil entirely.
"Battleship" is maybe half a good movie. Maybe about a quarter of the movie is actually salvageable, and these obviously are the big ship battles between the US Navy and the alien armada. Everything else is crap. What remains of the movie is bad extremely unfunny hyjinks at the beginning of the movie, an entire dull sidequest with the hero's girlfriend and a dude with no legs, and lots of scenes involving pathetic comic reliefs. Unfortunately, what I outlined takes roughly an hour and forty minutes, so only twenty minutes of this movie counts. Twenty minutes is better than nothing, I guess.
Taylor Crunch is a loser idiot living with his brother, Eric from "True Blood". He runs into this blond female, and due to mindless biological impulse, he decides to mate with her. The blond female, for equally mindless biological imperatives, needs a chicken burrito, so John Carter decides to go on a quest for this burrito. By the way, Taylor Pitch says "I'm will get you a chicken burrito" with the same dead-serious earnestness that John Carter would have said a heroic line about saving Helium City. (He even has the same haircut from "John Carter of Mars", somehow.) Then the idiot breaks into a locked 7/11, destroys the store, causes a traffic jam running across the street, and gets tased. All this happens with the Pink Panther theme playing. This turns out to be the most charming thing in the world for the female, because right after the timeskip they're ready to get married. What we're supposed to learn here is that Taylor Hitch's character is a complete moron, a demonstration duplicated when he loses his team's soccer match in the very next scene. THEN he gets into a fight with a Japanese captain, which gets him ready for a court marshal. I guess "Battleship" wants to prove to us that we're supposed to utterly hate the main character, so lesson learned.
I suspect the screenplay guy saw the new "Star Trek" recently before making this movie. And he saw that movie had a reckless hero who inexplicably takes command of the main battle ship in a battle against evil aliens. Only James T. Kirk was charming in his recklessness (and I had problems with that character in that movie already), Taylor Witch is not.
Here's the sad thing, Taylor Switch's character is actually the more likable main character. He gets to exist in the half of the movie mainly without the stupid jokes and terrible humor. Other than those two intro scenes, we really don't have anything as bad as a "Transformers" movie. No Bernie Macs are playing used car salesmen, no racist Blackface robots, and no Shia Laboofs. The other main character is Taylor Hitch's female, who wanders around the movie with a sideplot that exists for... some reason. She's a physical therapist, so she's working with this mammoth guy with no legs. They get caught up and stumble upon the alien's evil plan. Neither character has any personality, one is just a female and the other is a disabled character shoehorned in out of some perverse sense of political correctness. There are a few comic reliefs here and there, like this Matt Damon-looking motherfucker, who was utterly awful. And there's this attempt to create a Jeff Goldblum scientist character, like the classic characters he played in "Jurassic Park" and "Independence Day", who is even worse.
By the way, I wish this movie was canned and they just released "Independence Day" again. Fuck, re-release "Battle: Los Angeles", a movie that was a million times better than this navy crap. You know why I still like "Battle: LA"? No comic reliefs! No crappy love stories! No bad humor! And the only female was a badass. It was one clear movie: soldiers vs aliens from beginning to end. Not so much here, this feels like three different movies, two of which suck and one is decent.
Now, "Battleship" isn't entirely awful. That's partially because Liam Neeson is in it. Liam Neeson is not in this movie very long... his part in this movie is so tiny that I think Peter MacNicol has more lines**. I don't know why Liam Neeson was not signed on to be the main character, since he's LIAM NEESON. Liam Neeson is awesome! Why get Taylor Bitch instead of Liam Neeson??? Its like having a movie with Godzilla and Channing Tatum, so you have Channing Tatum be in 90% of the scenes and Godzilla plays a shopkeeper in the background without a line. Screw that nonsense. The plotline even goes out of its way to cut Liam Neeson out, in the most ridiculous justification. The aliens go so far to build a huge Plot Contrivance Bubble which locks out Liam Neeson, forcing Taylor Lautner to be the hero. Some of Liam Neeson's lines in the trailers aren't even in the movie! They cut parts of him out of this movie, how awful.
As for the aliens... prepare to be disappointed. Its somewhat difficult to be threatened by an invasion when one of the first ships crashes into a satellite and accidentally falls onto Hong Kong. Was that alien driver drunk? Worse, he was the communications guy, so now the aliens can't actually call their buddies back home to bring on a further invasion. So if we defeat the aliens before they take over a radar array in Hawaii, we can avoid a full-fledged attack by the whole armada. This makes no sense, because even if this one battalion never gets into contact with the other aliens, wouldn't they be concerned about their buddies who landed on Earth and never came back? "What happened to that force we sent to Earth? Never called back? Oh well, screw them, forget about Earth." Its like, if Neil Armstrong got captured by feral Moon People, we probably would send more ships to save him. We're not just going to leave the Moon alone forever. And these aliens won't ignore us either. This wouldn't be so unclear if they ever bothered to explain why the aliens are invading in the first place.
The aliens do have cool ships, but their physical form is pretty weak. For some reason all the aliens are cosplaying as Master Chief, and without their mask they're all Master Xehanort. Totally bald, green eyes, and they had a goat-beard made out of spikes. They also have bizarre hands made out of four thumbs, which I don't think actually would work as hands. Whatever. The scenes when the aliens attack inside the ship are massively boring because, quite simply, I don't give a shit about any human character in this movie aside for Liam Neeson. If the aliens kill the humans, don't kill the humans, whatever, I have zero emotional investment.
I did, however, care deeply about the boats. Those were the best characters by far. Especially the Missouri, which utterly stole the show in the last half hour. I was worried looking at the trailers that they would use nothing but modern navy ships, none of which are actual battleships, which have been outdated since airpower took over naval warfare seventy years ago. However, the Missouri takes over for the final climax battle, which is totally awesome. There is a weird plot point that they have to staff the Missouri with retired WWII vets, who apparently brought fuel and shells with which to fight. Now, this leads to a ridiculous montage where eighty-year-old men staff and crew a battleship, and thanks to the utterly horrible direction, they all act like eighty-year-old men who have just been told their lines ten seconds ago. Still, none of the vets get many lines, there are terrible masturbatory scenes where the actors all but pray to the real sailors, and they only appear on the boat, since I guess the retirement home only let them out for one week.
Here's the thing: the WWII vets are the best characters in this movie. That's the funny part.
As I mentioned before, the action scenes are very good. Personally, I'd join the navy if I ever had to join any branch of the military, I've always had a thing for massive steel ships with the destructive power of God blasting the bad guys away. And battleships are probably the coolest thing to ever sail until the advent of nuclear aircraft carriers. The Missouri and the destroyer, the John Paul Jones kick some ass. These are the exciting sequences of the movie. First you get a great scene where the John Paul Jones plays blind man's bluff with two space ships, which is almost like, you know, an ACTUAL GAME OF FUCKING BATTLESHIP. Remember that??? I don't remember my Battleship games having blond bimbos and idiot protagonists or aliens, they were just ships blowing other ships apart. (Phew.) Then the coolest scene is when the Missouri targets the mothership and the two crafts pound each other into the dust. Guess what? America wins.
Unfortunately the movie continues for another twenty minutes after the logical climax, I don't know why. Because we have to learn whether the female survives. Do I care about the female? No, I don't. Rihanna was hotter anyway, by several orders of magnitude. A lot of people have been critical of Rihanna in this movie, but trust me, she is looking fiiine. And Taylor Lipschitz seems to have more chemistry with the Japanese captain than the female. The movie is over when the mothership explodes. Then we can go home.
Anyway, here's a few more scattered throughts:
1. Taylor Hitch's most heroic decision in the movie is to put the Japanese captain in charge. This is because even he's aware that his character is completely stupid and utterly incompetent, and yeah, Liam Neeson is correct in trying to throw him out of the navy. The Japanese main character should have been the star.
2. Do sports announcers really announce for inter-nation military soccer matches? Is this thing on ESPN or something?
3. There's a whole montage of handicapped people working out in slow-mo, as if physical therapy is really cool and stylish now. Why is this in the movie? What was the director thinking?
4. The Jeff Goldblum-faker guy starts the movie by claiming that the SETI-style laser transmission we're sending to an Earth-like planet in space will cause a massive interstellar cultural clash "just like Columbus with the Indians". This led me to imagine that the aliens were going to bring some foreign disease that would wipe us out, since that was what really wiped out Native American culture before the Whites came in and took over a now-conveniently open North American continent. Nothing like that happened, since this line is massively stupid. If the scientist guy is having misgivings about an alien invasion, why did he build the super space laser to talk with aliens in the first place? Did he just come up with this idea that morning? And since he's a scientist, you'd think he knows that space is really really big, so it will be at least thousands of years before the aliens even hear us, and at least an equal amount of time before they come back. And even then, why does he think the aliens are stronger than us? What proof is there of that? One of the dumbest lines in the movie.
5. The dumbest line of the movie though, comes from the head scientist, who I don't think ever even gets a name. In the middle of a conversation about the alien invasion, he tells Peter MacNicol that "we're seeing an extinction-level event". NO WE ARE NOT. The aliens blew up part of one city, one base, one highway, and three destroyers. The death toll is maybe twenty thousand humans, tops. Where do you get an extinction-level event from that? These are only four ships, and they aren't even all that tough. Lose the drama. What is the moral of this movie anyway? "Don't try to contact other alien species"? What kind of fucked up moral is that? Yeah, we should turtle ourselves to this one planet, or maybe Eric from "True Blood" will get blown up. Boo hoo.
6. Nobody ever said the line "You sunk my battleship." Inexcusable.
So ultimately, "Battleship" is not a good movie. But despite its countless flaws: horrible script, unlikable characters, ludicrous plot, total lack of threat, raping the name of a children's boardgame it still had one good thing: cool naval battles with aliens. Aliens have never fought the navy before, I guess the movie had that coming. The "Avengers" is a million times better of a movie, so I'm glad to see its creaming "Battleship". This isn't a movie that deserved to be seen by millions. Its mildly entertaining, but also really boring in places. Its a rent. This could have been a decent Asylum movie, nothing else. But then again, when you're trying to be Michael Bay, mediocrity can only be considered a pleasant blessing. I oddly liked this movie, I hold no hatred for it. Its sweet in its silliness.
Still, see "Avengers".
Fanwank Corner: There's actually a much more interesting movie hidden inside this ridiculous plot. Instead of having Taylor Qwitch and Rihanna and all them, have the retired WWII vets be the main characters. Get Clint Eastwood or something to be the captain, taking up arms when the modern navy is punched out by invaders. And there's only one ship tough enough, badass enough, to save the day. And that's the Missouri. This is almost the plot of the new "Battlestar Galactica", come to think of it. Maybe somehow the Japanese navy could bring out a top-secret third Imperial Yamato-class battleship that's been hidden for decades to join her. Or even a secret Design A-150 battleship. This movie could have been classic. Oh well.
* It almost redeems them from killing any hopes of there being a "John Carter of Mars 2". Almost. I'm still sorta bitter about that.
** Yeah, Peter MacNicol is in this movie too. I think he plays the President, which would be awesome, if it weren't for the fact that he only has two lines, if that.