In May, Universal Pictures released a sci-fi action movie with a $260 million budget with the misguided thinking that people wanted to watch a cheesy movie based on a nearly unrelated classic Hasbro game. This said movie, which will remain nameless until the next sentence, earned $300 million worldwide, but after marketing and print costs are taken into account, it can only be described as a massive flop.
Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch, who also played the title character in John Carter, another sci-fi action movie that debuted a few months earlier. John Carter cost a staggering $300 million to make and earned less than that worldwide, which means that Mr. Kitsch has headlined two of the biggest disasters of 2012. In a year that should have been a crowning achievement for the actor (he also starred in Oliver Stone's Savages), Kitsch is now mentioned under the dictionary definition of box office poison.
Unfortunately, regardless of Battleship's box office fortunes, the movie is an unmitigated mess. Directed by Peter Berg (Hancock The Kingdom), Battleship is a bloated mess of annoying characters, cringe-inducing dialogue, a pathetic story, overblown special effects and a terrible score.
Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a misguided loser whose crowning achievement is breaking into a mini-mart to steal a frozen burrito to win the heart of a gorgeous girl (Brooklyn Decker). Flash ahead a few years and he has somehow become a junior officer in the Navy, despite still being irresponsible and largely regarded as being incapable of providing leadership or guidance. Naturally, his supermodel girlfriend wants to marry him.
Like in John Carter, and unlike in Savages, Kitsch is terrible. His character is like a mix between Tom Cruise's Maverick and Chris Pine's Captain Kirk, only without the charm and charisma. The character is poorly written, but Kitsch brings nothing to the table. Why Universal placed such a large movie in the hands of an unproven talent - and failed to surround him with quality actors (Liam Neeson and Alexander Skarsgård are barely in the movie) - is simply unfathomable.
The risk doesn't pay off.
Aside from Kitsch, Battleship is full of subpar performances and poorly written characters. Rihanna makes her theatrical debut to spout forgettable one-liners and Berg makes the mistake of casting active Army Colonel and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson in a surprisingly large role, despite poor acting skills. Most of the characters are goofy but far from funny, leaving the film littered with hollow shells the audience could care nothing about, or even laugh at.
Most of the dialogue consists of cliché one-liners that might work with charismatic actors, but not here. "I have a bad feeling about this" is a line used early in the film and one I muttered aloud during the painful first 30 minutes, which Berg uses to "develop" his bland characters. At one point, Gadson says, "Let's see if we can buy the world another day," to which another character responds, "Who talks like that?"
I asked myself the same question.
The story itself is absurd. Battleship is based upon the simple Hasbro game, which means that Berg and co-writers Jon and Erich Hoeber were contractually obligated to build its elements into the story. It would have been logical to make a tense, psychological action-thriller set in World War II, but instead, with its modern-day alien invasion plot, Battleship has to rely on stupid things like a giant force field, water displacement levels and so on. Of course, with the right action, actors and dialogue, a stupid story can still be fun. Unfortunately, Battleship has none of those things.
The action scenes consist of a bunch of loud sounds and flashy CGI. The CGI is fine but unremarkable; for $260 million and little spent on the cast, the special effects should have been as realistic and organic as they come. The action is so routine and forgettable that during one point I actually fell asleep during one scene, woke up during another and didn't miss a beat.
I went into Battleship with low expectations. Often when I do that, the movie ends up being mindless good fun. Not this time. Battleship is a movie so bad it isn't even worth watching on DVD or Blu-ray.
Blu-ray special features include an alternate ending pre-visualization, featurettes on the visual effects, the USS Missouri battleship, director Peter Berg, casting, shooting at sea and more, as well as Ultraviolet and digital copies.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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