Cross-posted on Film.com
When I decided to see Battleship this past weekend, it was for two very specific reasons. First, I heard great things about the visual effects and the sound, and if it's gonna get any sort of Oscar nod, better I see it in theaters than on a screener later in the year. Second, I had assumed from the Wondercon footage and various interviews where director Peter Berg said he wanted to make his version of a giant big budget action film that is super fun and doesn't take itself too seriously, I thought, fuck yes, I love that shit.
Because I do love that shit! I hate the Transformers films because they take themselves *just* too seriously, and yet make no sense, but loved GI Joe because I thought it was utterly ridiculous in all of the best ways. You can read more in depth about my feelings on those two in Why GI Joe > Transformers 2: A Love Story. So you can imagine, after writing a piece like that, and then hearing how there is a Battleship: A Love Letter article going around, that I thought I would love the crap out of Battleship, right?
Wrong. So very very wrong.
(There be spoilers ahead)
See here's the thing. I can forgive a lot. I can forgive horrible, never ending winking at the camera acting, Taylor Kitsch, I can. I can forgive a hollow love story and a woman prancing around wearing nothing with no purpose, sure, maybe, sometimes I can forgive that, though yes it's a stretch. Can I forgive a lead character who goes through a hero's journey without actually learning anything, who misinterprets Sun Tzu and accidentally mimics a children's game his way to victory? Hey, why not. I can even forgive vacant characters, flat jokes and failed attempts at relating to the audience. I AM A VERY FORGIVING PERSON. But you know what I can't forgive, action movie?
I can't forgive you being boring as all hell for the first hour and a half of your two hour long masturbatory effects jam.
I elaborate after the jump
While the absurdity of the first scene in which Taylor Kitsch's Alex Hopper wins over Brooklyn Decker's Sam with a daring chicken burrito mission is stupid and cute enough to sort of work in a bad 90s action movie kind of way (oh and the Perd Hapley cameo FTW!), the movie then jumps ahead some random amount of time and proceeds to make me tired for ninety minutes straight. It was just...dull! A bunch of soulless moving parts. Wasn't this supposed to be silly?, I thought to myself a third of the way through. WHY AM I SO BORED? I thought to myself a half hour later. I may have been expecting bad, but I was not expecting unwatchable. A movie this boring cannot get away with ignoring logic completely. Like how everyone keeps telling Hopper he is wasting his talents and potential when all we see him do is be an asshole. What are his talents? Someone? Anyone? I COULD FORGIVE THIS IF YOU WERE ENTERTAINING. Things started to look up a little anytime the film cleverly mimicked the mechanics of the game on which it was based, but those moments were few and far between.
Luckily, the final half hour of Battleship finally becomes such a shit fest that I started to enjoy myself. For example, at one point, in preparation for an undisclosed plan, Mick the paraplegic badass says to Sam, "How are your driving skills?" and Brooklyn Decker's slow motion nod is simultaneously infuriating and brilliant. "How are your driving skills?" What kind of question is that? And what kind of answer is a slow motion nod?? Do you have a history of competitive off road driving, Sam? Were you once a race care driver? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! Is this some sort of famous line from the game or something? You know, the game where all you do is sink other people's battleships? I think I just answered my own question.
In this last half hour, we also see the crew start up an old battleship that has been turned into a museum and somehow it is completely loaded and ready to go with fuel, ammo and missiles. Because live missiles on a museum-boat where kids frolic every day is a GREAT idea and makes perfect sense. Here, we also see a bunch of real life veterans take center stage, commanding the battleship, which is a part I genuinely enjoyed, though I am also a bit disgruntled at the slight manipulation of "You can't hate this part cause WE CAST REAL VETS." The end of the movie also marks the moment where we end up *not* getting a pay off at all after the film took great pains to make sure we inferred that the aliens don't hurt organic beings unless the beings become aggressive. I mean, okay, I guess you showed us and didn't tell us, so bully for you, but....what was the point? Why was that a part of the movie? It had nothing to do with destroying them, that had to do with the sun and by playing Battleship. Don't tell me you're saving the pay off for the sequel. I won't see it. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME SEE IT.
The end was getting so nonsensical and ridiculous in all the ways I was hoping for all along, that I kind of thought when Sam's foot got stuck in the car that she would end up with a metal foot like Mick's metal legs, but the movie decided not to go there. Whatever. Stupid movie.
I can see I may be sending mixed signals here, so let me try to clear it up. I wanted this movie to be bad. I wanted to yell at its stupidity and have a blast doing it. But rather than fill that GI Joe so bad it's awesome void, it went the Transformers route, too boring to be entertaining, not silly enough overall to excuse its utter lack of logic. I didn't think it would be possible for me to be disappointed by Battleship of all things, a movie we all knew would suck, but lo and behold, I totally just wasted $15.
Although you know what may have not helped the situation? Earlier in the same day, I saw the wonderful foreign action thriller, Headhunters. Taut, fast-paced, unpredictable, twisty, turny, at times ludicrous, filled with unexpected heart and emotion and incredibly smart, Headhunters is absolutely wonderful and a look into what action movies *can* be. Both this and The Raid: Redemption are takes on high adrenaline thrill rides that accomplish everything they set out to do, while being impeccably acted and directed, and in the case of Headhunters, with a balls out aces script to boot. So it probably didn't help matters much to walk into Battleship after seeing such an intelligent movie only a few hours earlier that gave me all of the adrenaline rush Battleship wishes it had. Not to mention, Headhunters has its absurd moments as well, but manages to comment on them in a way that makes you laugh without causing you to exit the story, check out, or care about anyone any less.
I think what I'm trying to say is, fuck trying to see a movie so bad it's good so you can laugh and make fun of it, because Battleship can't even accomplish that properly. Rent GI Joe and buy a six pack if that experience is so important to you. But what I really think you should do is go pay for an actual good movie and catch Headhunters before it leaves theaters.