I know I have a lot of writing to do here, but sometimes you have to warm up with something trivial.
I had a screening pass to see BATTLESHIP, which already opened around the world to dire reviews but…well, it was Monday night and I had nothing better to do. I had not paid much attention to the film or its contents previously so as it began I was quickly pleased to discover that it featured Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgard as sailors in crisp white uniforms. That was a big thumbs up right there.
Oh, Alexander Skarsgard. I could watch a whole movie of him standing on the bridge of a ship and giving tense orders. “Starboard!” “Aft!” “Hard to port!” “Fire when ready!”
The movie mostly features Kitsch as someone named Hopper who is a no-good f*ck-up in real life but somehow, when aliens attack, discovers how to quote Homer and comprehend Lao Tzu.
ASIDE: This film is meant to play big in Asia because the Asian character, a Japanese ship captain played by Tadanobu Asano, gets to do all kinds of heroic things and even teaches the hero a thing or two.
As I mentioned, I had not memorized the credits for this film, so as I was watching it I wondered if it was directed by Michael Bay or someone else who wanted to be Michael Bay. As it turns out, it was Bay-alike Peter Berg who directed HANCOCK previously, a film which I enjoyed. As I was watching, I began to suspect it was not Bay because it was just this much better than a Michael Bay movie. The shots were held a few seconds longer, the action was quite clean, and there was a vestige of humanity to some of the characters.
In Bay fashion, the sound editing in this movie was amazing. The CGI was also much prettier than usual…I guess the technology is now at a point where things can look kinda artsy in spots. The tech moves fast — I was watching AVATAR on TV the other night and it looked kinda frumpy.
Most of the movie is about a battleship battling some aliens who have their own battleship. There is a clever scene where one character calls out “Bravo 25!” “Zebra 16!” trying to blast the aliens…that is the part that is like the boardgame upon which this movie is based, you see. This scene was actually tense.
Berg had a lot of fun casting people who aren’t actors but real people for emotional effect. A real war hero who lost both his legs in Iraq and now walks with futuristic prosthetics. Real old salts who look to be in the 70s who get to run around on a ship. A real woman who once modeled bikinis. A real woman who has sold millions of records. Very inspiring.
Rihanna’s character was “feisty.” It’s very unusual for someone besides Michelle Rodriguez to play the Michelle Rodriguez role, but if Rihanna hurts her face and can’t sing in videos any more, she can probably do more Michelle Rodriguez roles.
BATTLESHIP was dumb, it’s true. How dumb? Towards the end they have a bunch of old salts talking in antique lingo, and a perfect chance for someone to say, without irony, “I sank your battleship!”
And no one does. Missed opportunities.
BATTLESHIP filled about two hours in a non-threatening way. If this movie were on TV I would leave it on while I cleaned the house or something. Kinda like INDEPENDENCE DAY.
BTW, if you want to see a really, truly great film about battleships and naval warfare, rent MASTER AND COMMANDER, which is a masterpiece.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.