Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Film Review: Battleship

Prior to actually seeing the film, I had some sort of peculiar notion that I was going to start this review off by comparing Battleship to the Eisenstein classic Battleship Potemkin, stating similarities in style and structure and how this new film lives up to the legend of the silent masterpiece, before pulling the plug as it were and coming clean as to it being nothing more than mere fanciful falderal, and that in truth, Battleship is probably one of the worst films of the year.  But then something happened - I saw the movie, and realized that it wasn't half bad.  Now I am not saying it indeed should be compared to a classic work of cinema, any classic work of cinema, for that is most certainly not the case, but at the same time, it is a far cry from the shipwreck many, myself included, expected it to be.  In other words, the movie, though silly and quite ridiculous at times, is a rather enjoyable popcorny summer flick, and as far as movies based on board games go, it most certainly has its moments.

Now granted, these moments are intermingled with the cheesy dialogue, wooden acting and spot-on predictability that have harangued viewers of pretty much every Michael Bay film ever made - from Armageddon to Pearl Harbor to the Transformer series - but unlike the flatulent Bay, director Peter Berg gives his supercilious summer blockbuster something that Bay has never been able to - an adventure tale that you may actually care about.  Sure, the lines the actors give ring loud with a rather puerile, b-grade resonance, and the in-story situations are something akin to cheap theatrics, and the film falls quite deep into the dark waters of over-sentimentalized schmaltz, especially in the third act, but still we are given a sci-fi, action-adventure, call-to-arms motion picture spectacular that manages to rise above many of these inherent problems, and become the big ballsy meat-and-potatoes creature it so happens to be.  For better AND for worse, this is what we get from Battleship.

As far as the story goes, we have all the typical archetypes for such a tale.  The brash, fuck-up who everyone watching knows will eventually stand and deliver the day's winnings.  The good-hearted but frustrated older brother who must force some well-needed tough love on the aforementioned fuck-up, and probably pay some sort of price for it.  The beautiful woman back home who must find her own courage to help save herself and others.  The grizzled, disabled ex-military man who must battle through his own personal scars to once again save the day.  The tough-as-nails Admiral who must confront adversity in military matters, but through the love between his daughter and said fuck-up.  The Japanese captain who of course must make amends with his perceived enemy and together with them, learn to fight as a team.  The cocky ship's female gunner who can hit as hard and as fast as the big boys.  The hippy technician who must brave his own lack of courage.  Played with varying degrees of in-over-their-head to so-above-all-this by Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Gregory D. Gadson, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Rihanna and Hamish Linklater respectively, they are all here in all their resplendent action-movie cliche glory.

When all is said and done though, to use a vernacular from the original game itself (a version of which is rather smartly embroidered into the movie's narrative), there are more misses than hits most certainly, but the hits are fun enough to if not make you forget the misses, at least perhaps forgive them.  After all, this is a big budget summer blockbuster and they are supposed to full of blunderbuss and codswallow, and tubthumping, chest-pounding bombasticy, and no one is ever going to be able to realistically accuse this movie of strong narrative or character growth or anything even slightly resembling originality, but when the guns get to blasting and the bombs get to bursting and the heroes get to heroing, the movie actually ain't half bad.  Yeah, a satiric comparison to Eisenstein's masterpiece may have been a fun way to start things out, but in the end, I just didn't have the heart to tear down a movie that despite its oh so obviously preposterous and laughable Michael Bay-esque über-schtick, is a legitimately fun, all-out beginning of summer rompadoodle-doo.

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