I was fortunate to attend an advance screening of the movie Battleship. Oh sure, it took me a week to write about it but, hey, it was a tough week. However, I know everyone is waiting so here it is.
Like I said in a previous blog, this type of movie should be my type of movie. It’s not something that will make me a better person or make me think deep thoughts or make me marvel at the acting. As far as I could tell going in, this movie has aliens and at least one battleship. Good enough for me. If they had a topless dancer leaping out of a cake, it could be the greatest movie ever.
Boy was I wrong.
Oh, there are things to like. The graphics are amazing and everything is so flawlessly DGI’d that I’m not entirely convinced they didn’t CGI the actors as well.
So here’s the plot. Aliens land on earth and it’s up to the navy to stop them.
But wait, stop them from doing what?
Can someone tell me?
Ok, so here’s how it all starts… mankind, being mankind, sends out a single to a newly discovered planet that looks a lot like ours. A goldlocks planet, they call it, not too hot, not too cold. I’m not sure if the message read, ‘dudes, stay the f*%@! Away from this f*%@ place,” but that would seem appropriate, in my opinion. Maybe they sent pictures of the holocaust or a sound track from Paulie Shore’s stand-up but something like that I’m sure.
Either way, the aliens get the message and think, hey, let’s go visit earth. So they send off uber high tech ships which travel a gazillion miles and somehow manage to hit a satellite in space. Seems they didn’t have their headlights on or something.
But understand, this had to happen. The plot depends on it. Oh sure, it stretches the realm of truth but hey, they’re aliens, they do stuff like that all the time.
Anyway, one part of the ship crashes to earth and wipes out a chuck of Hong Kong. Seems that part of the ship was the only part with communication gear.
The rest of the Alien ship lands near Hawaii at the exact moment the US and a bunch of allies are having wargames. How convenient. The alien ships pop a force screen around their ships but, wait, (how convenient) they trap our heroes inside.
Now, ok, so it’s not unusual for a WHOLE bunch of coincidences to stack up so that a story can work. It’s the result of too much cocaine being snorted by the writers. Happens to all of us at some point (the coincidences, not the cocaine.)
So what do our heroes do? They charge off to see what’s what with the new arrivals. I’d do the same. It’s the human thing to do. They poke the aliens and prod the aliens and lo and beyond, the aliens get pissed.
Now comes the cool part. The Aliens only destroy the ships that attacked them with some sort of spit-ball missile thing that makes a big boom. How cool is that, thought I sitting there with a giant buttery popcorn and an icy coke sweating through the cardboard cup. We’re the assholes. They are just destroying our ability to kill things.
This I like. The Aliens assume a defensive posture. They are porcupining (if I can invent a word.)
Then the Aliens send out some spinning balls of doom that proceed to wipe out the entire airforce and military infrastructure of Hawaii. Again, not going after civilian targets or even Pauli Shore.
So basicailly, if we don’t shoot missiles at them, they’ll just hang around like surfers looking for a wave.
But hold on.
Where ‘s the danger?
With one stroke of the plot-pen, we have removed all threat and conflict from this movie. Let the dudes hang out in the water. Let them build their little satellite relay back on Hawaii. Live and let live.
But who wants to see that movie?
They must have realized that because suddenly the heroes have managed to capture one of the Aliens and one of them reaches out and Vulcan-mind-melds with that guy from John Carter (the poor bastard who needs a better agent) and, wait, no they aren’t peaceful at all but have flash-flash plans to conquer our world.
Really? Do the Alien ships attack the last destroyer left, the ones with our heroes on it? Why no, no they don’t. Do they kill everyone onboard when they come to rescue their captured friend? Why no,no they don’t. Do they (somewhat later) kill the geeky scientist who tries to steal back some sort of gadget? Why no, no they don’t.
Seriously? I tell you, these guys have to read Conquering Planets For Dummies. You wouldn’t get anywhere leaving everyone alive and able to shoot missiles at you.
So then we have a confusing night fight where somehow the super-uber-techo Aliens can not see a huge freaking destroyer at night, (AT NIGHT?) so instead of turning on some lights (which would have also saved them from rear-ending that satellite earlier on,) they play hide and seek and our heroes win by using, oh God, by using some variation on the battleship GAME. E-4. You sunk my Alien!
Now I could go on and on about how those funny spinning balls of doom are forgotten when the Aliens are trying to kill our heroes in their little destroyer, or how some vet on metal legs can fight with an Alien who has been shown to have the strength to toss people around like I throw a ball for the dogs, or how a mothballed battleship had LIVE ammo and could be started faster than my Honda in winter… but let’s focus. Let us ask someone else.
Hannibal Lector, anything to say?
Hannibal Lecter: “First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this Alien you are watching?
Clarice Starling: It blows up things….
Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by blowing up things?
Clarice Starling: Errr… They hate us, want to destroy us.
Hannibal Lecter: No, Clarice. If they hated us, wouldn’t they have blown all the destroyers and our heroes out of the water right at the start? And wouldn’t they use those spinning balls of doom to wrech every city on the planet?
Hannibal has a point.
What did the Aliens want? To phone freaking home? To what end? Couldn’t they fly back? Did they want to kill us? Clearly, clearly not, except when we poked them with a cruise missile or tried to ram them with a battleship. So why did they come? To say hi? They never tried to say hi, didn’t send flowers, didn’t even try to anally probe anyone. Did they want our women? Nope. Our scientists? Nope, again. Hawaiian Pineapples? Nope.
So. What. Did. They. Want?
And that is the flaw of the movie. Forget the disastrous insertion of some sort of love story (that’s just giving John Carter some personal stakes). Forget that every scene in there (with the exception of the exploding destroyer which was just plain cool) has been seen a hundred times before (and done better!) Forget the horrible dialogue and painful attempts at character development, this movie fails because we have met the enemy and he is us.