Ebert has a philosophy about giving a rating of zero stars: he does so only
when he finds something personally offensive about the movie in question.
One star out of four is usually sufficient to tell folks that it sucks,
leaving the dreaded “0” for more profound levels of anger.
Battleship surely demands such anger,
though less for the results onscreen than for the decisions which brought it
You certainly won’t find a more potent piece of A-list idiocy anywhere.
Battleship was seemingly assembled by those 10,000 monkeys working on
Hamlet: there’s a bare notion of an idea desperately clinging to
cohesion, only to crumble before a relentless onslaught of mindless (and not
particularly interesting) effects sequences that inexorably transform our
brains to mush. Supposedly, all that empty sound and noise serves some kind
of purpose. Instead, it only reveals the filmmakers’ profound contempt for
Alien invasions are nothing new, of course, but it usually helps to make the
aliens vaguely threatening in some manner before sending them against us.
Instead, the mechanized attackers send five ships – one of which breaks
apart upon entering our atmosphere and the remainder of which set up shop
just off the islands of Hawaii. Despite their ability to set up an
impenetrable force field around themselves, their monstrous attack consists
of blindly lobbing razor-sharp balls at far-away population centers and
sinking nearby naval vessels with explosives resembling delayed-reaction
World War I artillery shells.
From those giggle-inducing “dangers,” the filmmakers add a further weakness:
any human vessels attempting to engage the aliens can basically shut them
down simply by pointing their weapons in another direction. Intergalactic
space travel, the energy to generate invisible barriers at will . . . and
all we have to do to stop them is adopt a “just kidding” pose until we’re
ready to shoot.
Against them, the three U.S. Navy warships stuck inside the shield feel like
supreme overkill. They sail out there as part of a war-gaming exercise and
find themselves trapped, led by a play-by-his-own-rules lieutenant (Taylor
Kitsch) and the expected gang of lovable misfits who pull together in the
face of the clanking death machines bearing down on them.
Characterization comes second in a movie like this, but even the most brazen
piece of eye candy needs some viable surrogates to hold our sympathies.
treats the human characters as more boring versions of its effects: largely
interchangeable and existing only to deliver some A-Team style
montages at the appropriate moments.
Director Peter Berg renders their heroics a toneless fog bank of white
noise, devoid of emotional build-up, discernable pacing or any appreciable
point. Colossal plot holes and idiotic story points are to be expected in
summer blockbusters like this. But when the money shots themselves become
active irritants, we go beyond stupid movies to a whole new level of
Blame for it all lies in the process itself. Battleship started as a
board game and attained movie status by corporate fiat. Its development
reflects that genesis: all focus groups and hackneyed formula produced
without the faintest trace of a human heartbeat. It might as well be a
calculator for all the creative investment that went into it. It exists
solely to sell tickets to the gullible, as well as serving as a two-hour
advertisement for whichever corporate partners saw fit to sign on.
even muster any “so bad it’s good” credentials; those at least foster some
fodder for jokes and an attendant modicum of goodwill. This is just boring -
the precise kind of noisy, irritating boring that suffocates everything
beneath it. Small wonder audiences rejected it in droves when it first came
out. You can only fool the public for so long, and with a piece of
commercialism this brazen, epic failure was almost assured. I have no doubt
that the Blu-ray release will quickly follow suit.
THE DISC: Having said that, the Blu-ray does decently enough by the
film. Extras include a fistful of featurettes, an “all access” mode which
plays behind-the-scenes material alongside the film itself, a
pre-visualization sequence covering an alternate version of the ending, and
a tour of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship which plays a large role in the
movie. Sound and visual quality are top notch – though that doesn’t make
much of a dent in the barrage of screeching CGI they deliver.
WORTH IT? Only for masochists, Liam Neeson completionists and
contrarians who deliberately love films that everyone else hates.
RECOMMENDATION: Battleship works best as a cautionary example
for any corporate executives who think they know better than the filmgoers.
Sadly, I suspect that the lesson will be lost on those most in need of
- Rob Vaux