About three years ago, a Hollywood executive, let’s call him Dick, was going through a rough patch. Several recent projects had failed. The studio head was on the verge of firing him if he didn’t come up with something big, something that would erase all the recent failures, something that would get people talking. On a Saturday afternoon, Dick did a few bumps of coke and watched his children playing a board game–Candyland–and he thought, man, that would be one trippy movie. Dick started giggling and did another bump. He sat down with his kids and they looked at him strangely. It was uncommon to see their father during the day and on the weekend, though it was familiar seeing him with red eyes and a runny nose. The kids were going to grow up with daddy issues. They knew it. Dick knew it. There was a lot of enmity between them all. Dick smiled at his children even though he wasn’t convinced they were really his. He had married an actress, after all.
After a few minutes, the kids ignored their father and chattered about whatever kids chatter about. Dick could never be sure. They practically spoke another language. Suddenly he jumped up and began pacing the room, rambling about so many board games, and how surely one would translate well to the silver screen. He ran to the playroom closet and started pulling board games off the shelf. Trivial Pursuit, no, that would be way too smart a movie to make any money. He threw it to the floor and the game pieces clattered in the box. Monopoly would remind people of the economy and discourage them from spending money; no, Monopoly wouldn’t work. The Game of Life. Dick laughed and rubbed his hands together. He might be able to make Life work, but then he thought about his wife and maybe children and how they reminded him of all the world’s miseries. No one wanted to see that sort of thing at the movie theatre. No one wanted the truth.
Suddenly, in a dark corner of the closet, he saw the box for Battleship. Dick had fond memories of Battleship. When he was a boy, he would play with his father and if Dick missed sinking one of his father’s ships, his father would box Dick’s ears and tell him to try harder. Dick winced as he remembered those terrible games. His ears rang. But in the blackened depth of his soul, he felt something stirring. Battleship would make a great movie, the kind of movie America deserved. It would be big and gaudy and he’d find some serious actor to bring some gravitas–maybe Richard Gere, if he wasn’t hugging a tree or meditating, or, if he was lucky, perhaps George Clooney needed a few million for some do-gooder pet project. All those save the world types were more than willing to sell out if it meant financing their hubris. Dick started smiling, smiling so hard his cheeks ached. He grabbed his Blackberry and began mashing buttons as he sent his boss an e-mail. A few minutes later, the studio head had sent him an e-mail, in ALL CAPS. It simply read: FUCK YOU, YOU BRILLIANT ASSHOLE. LET’S DO THE DAMN THING.
I’ve noticed, in the past couple years, an awesome new genre of film, that can best be termed as FUCK YEAH AMERICA! These are
movies that carefully showcase America’s military might, making it clear that the U.S. armed forces are the mightiest armed forces in the world. The latest entry into this fascinating, post 9/11 genre, is, of course, Battleship. I could not resist, with some arm twisting from a man, seeing the midnight showing of this movie. There were only about 18 people in the theatre so I’m guessing Battleship is going to sink.
See what I did there?
I had no idea what to expect. The trailer was a hot mess of CGI and shouting and Rihanna so there was little evidence of any kind of narrative coherence. Good news/bad news—the trailer is a clear reflection of the movie itself which was so fucking terrible, so shockingly terrible that I laughed the entire time. I surrendered and embraced the terrible.
Everything I am about to tell you about Battleship is true. Let me start by saying that they were very liberal in their interpretation of the boardgame and that was the one bright spot in a dark morass of bloated, overproduced Hollywood bullshit.
The budget for this shit show was $200 million. It makes me sick to even think about that.
Movies Battleship flagrantly steals from: Top Gun, Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Space Cowboys, Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day, Armageddon, The Hunt for Red October, Deep Impact and others. The producers and writers literally just stitched together the best or worst moments and ideas from each of these movies, creating what can only be termed as a FRANKENMOVIE.
When Battleship (OMG HAHAH THIS IS A REAL THING) opens, there’s some type on the screen filling us in on the bullshit premise they came up with to actually turn a board game into a movie.
In 2005 or something, NASA started looking for another Earth-like planet, a Goldilocks planet, that was juuust the right distance from the sun so if we colonized it, we wouldn’t freeze to death or burn to death. They found this planet in a galaxy far, far, away and set up LOL a satellite array and sent a magic satellite into space to beam a signal to this magic planet. Why? Oh who the hell knows. Some scientist geek appears on screen and is expositing all this nonsense to us and the brother from New Adventures of Old Christine, well, he hasn’t shaved or cut his hair since that show ended, but he’s found work again. He says something like, “This is going to be like what Columbus did to the Indians only we’re going to be the Indians this time.” That’s not the line exactly but it’s close and… there’s something wrong there, but fine, it’s early yet.
John Carter, or the man you people call Tim Riggins, and Eric from True Blood, well, they’re brothers and they are celebrating John Carter’s 26th birthday at a bar. The script is TRAGIC. Like, if there was a word more tragic than tragic, that would more aptly describe the “script” for this movie. Even travesty is not adequate. Anyway, Eric is hot so thank goodness for that. He’s in the Navy and his brother is a long-haired bad boy. There’s a cupcake and John Carter who is Alex Hopper in the movie, or Hopper, is supposed to make a wish but then Brooklyn Decker walks in, scantily clad, tan and lean, and asks the bartender for a chicken burrito. Remember the blonde from the last Transformers movie, Dark side of the Moon? Well Brooklyn plays that same role in this movie! The bartender shuts the microwave and says the kitchen is closed. Ha Ha! Hopper wants to hop all over Brooklyn so he ambles over to the bar and promises to get her a chicken burrito and runs across the street to the Kwik Mart but the lady is closing up and won’t let him in so after she drives away he somehow…honestly we’re not shown, gets into the ceiling (SWEAR TO GOD) and drops into the convenience store, finds and microwaves the burrito, but then has a lot of trouble getting out of the store. The cops show up and it’s totally a DON’T TAZE ME BRO! situation. The cops taze the shit out of him but he gives Brooklyn that burrito, first, and true love is born.
The next morning, Hopper is hungover and soaking in a bath of ice water–that is ice cubes and water. Why? I have no idea. How he is even able to stay soaking in that tub is beyond me. Eric is yelling at him and acting terribly. His acting in this movie, just a crying shame. You look at that pretty face and think, “What’s wrong, baby? Talk to mama.” Anyway, Hopper sits up in the tub and starts freaking out about the tazer marks in his back and it’s supposed to be funny but it’s a really leaden scene that’s embarrassing for everyone, much like the movie! This movie is the Inception of terrible. That is, there is terrible in terrible in terrible.
Anyway, Eric says, “That’s it, you’re joining the Navy,” and then Hopper does.
Yes, just like that. As if…it’s that easy to join the Navy.
I am just getting started.
We flash forward and, okay let me calm down before I say this, Hopper is now a LIEUTENANT in the Navy. His brother is a Commander. His brother’s name, by the by, is Stone Hopper. I just…I do not even know. Anyway, there’s going to be naval exercises called RIMPAC, and a bunch of Navy ships are involved and the Malaysians are there as well as the Japanese.
There’s a wonderful moment where they rely on a newscast to advance the story and the broadcast is the “Hawaii Nightly News,” as if Hawaii was one island. I DIED LAUGHING. I just died. It was too amazing of a moment.
Then, there’s a soccer game and this, if you enjoy thighlights, was the best part of the movie. I love love love a man in a soccer uniform and the movie did not disappoint. Now, this is a blatant ripoff from Top Gun but they couldn’t have a volleyball game, that would be too obvious. The US is playing Japan in the game (all kinds of Pearl Harbor subtext in this movie) and there are a bunch of dudes on the ship and, OMG GUYS! Also Rihanna.
She is…. the ONLY woman in the entire Navy. It’s so obviously a ploy to insert a Famous Pop Star into the movie that they didn’t even try to make her presence make sense. That’s fucking ballsy. And pathetic.
Let’s just get the Rihanna business out of the way. Her acting is terrible. Her wig is terrible. The acting, though, my god, I very much needed it to stop. She cannot deliver a line to save her life. Inflection is a problem as is timing. Thank goodness she can sing and slap her barely covered vagina while dancing on television. She’s going to need that to fall back on. I’ll also note that this is the most dressed you will ever see Rihanna. It was disconcerting to see her so fully clothed.
At the end of the soccer game, it’s time for a penalty kick after one of the Japanese guys kicks Hopper in the face. Hopper, still stunned from the blow, cockily says he’s going to take the kick even though everyone tells him no. He misses the kick by a mile and it’s one of those awkward I TOLD YOU SO moments. Eric, being an awesome brother, wraps his arm around his baby brother’s shoulders and they walk it off.
Turns out, Liam Neeson who is in the movie for about seven minutes (and has like seventh billing?!?!?!), is Brooklyn Decker’s father, OF COURSE. Hopper and Brooklyn are in love and Hopper needs to ask Liam, who is the admiral, for Brooklyn’s hand in marriage. After a ceremony on an old battleship (hold on to that tidbit), Hopper means to have this important conversation, but he goes to the bathroom to pull his shit together and the Japanese guy who kicked him in the face comes in and they scuffle and then they get in trouble and then it’s time for the war games to begin so that’s that.
As an aside, John Carter is a petite little fella. Liam and Eric and Brooklyn TOWER over him throughout the movie.
The games begin and a helicopter is sent for Hopper who, it turns out, is in charge of weapons for his ship. He is shuttled to his brother’s ship (because it is totally fine to use naval resources for family business), and Hopper is informed by Eric that he’s probs going to get kicked out of the Navy after the war games are over.
This will never be resolved so waste not one second worrying about it.
Hopper goes back to his ship and calls Brooklyn and she’s pretty understanding even though his career is in jeopardy. Tru luv.
Suddenly, the geeks at the satellite array notice five objects hurtling toward earth. One of them veers off toward, yes, Hong Kong, where every space object ever seems to land in the movies, and destroys a good part of the city. The rest of the objects land, conveniently, in the waters just off Hawaii where the war games are taking place. Thank goodness they didn’t land in some other part of the largest ocean in the world because then, what would have happened?
No one knows what’s going on. Liam dispatches three ships–a Japanese ship (WUT?), Eric’s ship, and Hopper’s ship, to investigate what’s going on.
The hilarious thing about this movie (and there are so many hilarious things, really), is that it is rated PG-13 so nothing really terrible happens, at least, not that we see.
Also, every time someone is about to say motherfucker, we only hear mother, and then there is an explosion. Cause. Effect.
This is a Navy where everyone can do every single job on the ship so once the boats magically cross 145 miles in about three seconds, Hopper, Rihanna, and some rando, get in a zippy little boat with a gun and go closer to “investigate.” In a scene so absurd it just made me laugh until I cried, Hopper jumps out of the boat and starts strolling on the alien object and then he goes to this big tower thing that’s like a an ugly water feature, and even though his compadres are saying, “I wouldn’t do that,” he pushes a button. Now, this is a massive tower and he automatically knows where to press his hand. Convenient.
Crazy things start happening involving CGI, whirring sounds and transformation. I am 100% certain that the same production design team that did Transformers also did this movie. They kind of just borrowed the necessary sound effects and graphics et voila! Success!
In short order, the aliens blow up Eric’s ship and that’s that. Hopper is hopping mad so he goes back to the ship and guess what? He’s the highest ranking offer now that the CO and XO were killed in the alien shelling. Of course. His crew is mighty skeptical because they know he’s an asshole, but they do their best to fall in line. Hopper wants to blow the aliens to hell but they dispatch with the Japanese ship and it’s clear that he’s in for a world of hurt if he takes his destroyer into the line of fire so he backs down, ooh maturity, and saves that fight for another day.
Apparently, the aliens only attack if they sense an aggressor. It makes no sense at all, but we’ll go with it. Here’s what drives me crazy about alien invasion movies, though. Is it really possible that every alien species is smarter than humans? What is with this human self loathing that pervades such movies? Just once, I’d like to see the planet invaded by idiot aliens. Anyway, the aliens are always smarter and they always have infinitely more fire power and military might but somehow, the goodness of humanity perseveres. It’s shocking that we’re expected to believe this. The firepower these aliens demonstrate? They would destroy the planet in about thirty-three minutes. It’s plainly obvious so it’s also a little insulting for the filmmakers to think we actually believe that the good guys are going to win. It is such assholery.
Also, why don’t aliens ever come in peace?
Anyway, things happen. There’s this force field dome around Hopper’s destroyer so, conveniently, the rest of the Navy cannot get to them. It is Hopper or annihilation.
Twice, the movie flashes to that war room we see in all such movies, a big round table around which important looking men sit, offering platitudes about solving some military problem.
One of the most adorable and ridiculous parts of the movie is that we get two mini-scenes in this room but nothing, and I mean NOTHING ever comes of it. There’s no tactical strike planned, no evacuation options discussed. It’s just this sort of sidebar in the movie. How does such a continuity mistake happen in a movie this expensive??? The last we hear from the room is everyone wondering which naval officers are inside the forcefield dome. Helas!
Anyway, Hopper pulls his shit together and grief rages and looks sweaty and muscle-y. A serious portion of this movie’s budget went to spritzing characters down on the regular. At some point, they fish an alien out of the water and they look mostly like us but they have lizard eyes and porcupine twills on their chins and gross four finger claw hands that will haunt me for the rest of my life or at least the next three days. Some of the alien’s bros come to save him and somehow they don’t kill everyone on the ship. They are still needed.
Back on Oahu (hehehee), Brooklyn, we learn, is a physical therapist, working with injured veterans. There’s a sad montage of veterans with missing limbs and it’s a reminder of how sacrifice for soliders is quite literal. There’s a big black guy with two artificial legs and he’s surly. Brooklyn decides to take him for a hike up a mountain. He has no love for life anymore because he’s a soldier and if he can’t fight, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. We’ve seen this before. This guy cannot act BUT I’m going to give him a pass because I think he might really be a soldier and as such, he can’t be expected to know how to modulate his voice and such. He brings a certain nobility to the role but man, his lines fall flat. It was rough going.
They eventually see things hurtling toward them and then some cops tell them to get off the mountain and then they run into the bearded guy from New Adventures of Old Christine and he’s some kind of scientist though it is NEVER explained, and they call the destroyer where Hopper is hanging out and of course Brooklyn and Hopper have a nice little chat but nothing important happens. It’s just… random bullshit coincidence that we’re supposed to dumbly nod our heads and go on with. Long story short, Brooklyn, the soldier, and the geek help save the day because they just happen to be on the mountain where the satellite array is installed.
Meanwhile, out on the ocean, they have no radar. It’s nice. They need to see the aliens though. WHAT TO DO? The Japanese captain, Nagata, says he has an idea–a way of seeing without seeing. I perked up because I knew whatever nonsense they were about to throw at me was going to be amazing. Nagata says they can use tsunami buoys to track water displacement, so they log in to the NOAA system (?!) and start seeing buoys pop up on the screen and then Hopper says, “Make a grid,” and suddenly, we see a grid, and red dots moving across the grid, indicating that the aliens are moving.
It was then I realized they LITERALLY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT BATTLESHIP. As in, it’s not just about the boat! I lost it at this point. I simply could not stop laughing for the duration. I tried to keep it down and it was easy because this is, by far, the LOUDEST movie I have ever seen. A cacophony of gunmetal and explosiveness pounded my eardrums for the entire 131 minutes.
Captain Nagata took command and began trying to hit the alien ships. He’d call out coordinates and Rihanna, some kind of weapons specialist, obvi, would aim the wepaons in that direction and they’d miss and try again and eventually, Nagata was like F4! And BOOM! YOU SANK MY BATTLESHIP.
The only, only thing that would have made this movie more ridiculously amazing, would have been if they incorporated a line about sinking a battleship.
Then they use the sun as a weapon.
This goes on, but alas, the destroyer is destroyed. The key characters manage to get on lifeboats and they head back to port.
There’s more alien killing to be done though. When they had their phone chat, Brooklyn told Hopper he needed to destroy the satellite array. All of a sudden, Hopper gets an idea. Earlier in the movie, the ceremony was held on an old battleship. Hopper’s like, I have a boat! He points to the ancient battleship and his comrades look at him like he has lost his mind. He has, but it’s not his fault. He can only work with the script he was given.
At this point, this movie devolved into pure lunacy. I cannot overstate the ridiculousness that ensues. Hopper’s comrades are freaking out because the battleship is analog (their words), and it runs on steam and it hasn’t been used in like 20 years. Who is going to get that ship started?
Well, there’s an answer. The old navy dudes who were being honored in the ceremony at the beginning of the movie, just HAPPEN to be standing on the battleship in various places, wearing their old navy dungarees. These are kind of like, the first navy officers ever. They were definitely about to embark on one last adventure. Hopper walks up to them and says, “I know you’ve given a lot to your country and I have no right to ask but will you help us?”
It’s ridiculous. Okay? Why would he say that? The old guys are standing on the ship. The world is about to end. Why wouldn’t they go into service? It’s like a waiter at a restaurant saying to a seated couple, “I know you’ve eaten in your lifetime, and you are here voluntarily, and it’s a lot to ask, but would you do me the honor of eating a meal at my restaurant?” Come the fuck on. It’s pathetic.
Still, this is when I started laugh crying because it was so amazing.
Red blooded American rock and roll starts blaring. The entire soundtrack for Battleship falls under the playlist, on my iPod, called White People Music. I couldn’t really tell you who the artists are but it’s all very rock and roll, let’s drink some Bud, music. My gentleman friend laughs every time he sees that playlist because yes, I totally go there.
The rock is blaring and we see a montage of the old guys and the young idiots working together to get this battleship working. FUCK YEAH AMERICA! FUCK YEAH AMERICA! FUCK YEAH AMERICA! The could have just displayed those words on the screen for 10 minutes instead. This battleship being seaworthy is not something that could ever be possible but fine, FINE. They have like a handful of missiles, as IF, there would ever be live munitions hanging around on a decommissioned ship. They set to sail and save the day with one bomb and then LOL this is kind of the best part, but the next scene is another awards ceremony. The wounded warrior gets a medal. Stone Hopper, deceased, gets an iron cross or something like that, and Hopper gets a medal too. Liam pulls him aside after the ceremony and says he looks forward to Hopper getting his own ship soon. I guess that’s how it works in the Navy. Save the world, get your own command. This happened in Star Trek, too so I’ll believe it. Brooklyn starts tugging on Hopper’s sleeve and tells him to go ask her father for permission to marry her so he does and the father says, UH NO, ha ha ha, funny, right? Because ages old misogyny is awesome! Wunderbar. Then Liam invites Hopper to lunch so they can work out the details of Hopper taking possession of his lithe chattel. God Bless America, the end.
To sum up: to call this movie terrible would be an insult to the word terrible. Rihanna, cannot act, bless her wonderful heart.