Chris Versus The Movies: Is Battleship the Worst? (Yes.)
Man, you guys. I wasn’t even going to write about this, until Charlie Jane Anders posted up this article from The Wrap, which is about how The Hunger Games and The Avengers are doing so well that there’s no money left for Battleship, and it contains a quote from Universal’s domestic distribution chief Nikki Rocco in which she says:
In my heart of hearts I feel ‘Battleship’ would have fared much better if in its third week ‘Avengers’ wasn’t doing $55 million.
This is basically the same thing as saying, “I believe that if pizza weren’t so successful as a food product, more people would be lining up to buy my turd sandwich,” in that yes, duh. Of course people would rather see The Avengers nine times than see Battleship. I would rather watch The Avengers nine times, and I hate watching anything twice. I would rather watch no other movies for the rest of my life, and watch The Avengers every single day until the Four Horseman annihilate the world at the front of a wave of radioactive space sludge than watch Battleship.
Because Battleship is a turd sandwich.
I want to be clear on this (in case I wasn’t), this is a movie that has absolutely literally nothing to recommend it at all. From uniformly terrible acting (even Liam Neeson is delivering his performance by long-distance hologram phonecall, and the other cast members are either 1) very hot people who DON’T EVEN GET NAKED or 2) actual uniformed servicemen who are under the gross misapprehension that “actually knowing how a boat works” is some kind of asset in a movie like this), to the director who can’t even be bothered to keep Taylor Kitsch’s face consistently bloody from shot to shot IN THE SAME TWO-MINUTE SCENE, to the score by Steve Jablonsky and the Twisted Metal Orchestra which sounds like a Hyundai being tortured to death by a gigantic subwoofer.
It goes without saying that the script is abysmal, obviously. The story of Battleship is this: Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a perennial fuckup who gets tased stealing a chicken burrito for a hot girl who somehow can’t get the bartender at a bar to employ his microwave to cook her a chicken burrito. His brother, Stone Hopper, makes Alex Hopper join the Navy, where Alex Hopper continues to be a fuckup and gets to be a lieutenant on a boat. (It is not explained how this is possible.)
SIX YEARS LATER, there is a Battleship Convention in the Ocean, where all the battleships get together and their crews play soccer. A Japanese guy soccer-kicks Taylor Kitsch in the face. Later, they fight. Liam Neeson decides to throw Taylor Kitsch out of the Navy, AFTER they let him command a battleship in their battleship games.
Aliens arrive, and put a dome around three of the battleships, leaving the remaining battleships to just float around without anything to do (good investment, The Navy, proud sponsor of NBC/Universal’s Battleship) while guys in suits and possibly the ACTUAL SECRETARY OF THE NAVY (because sure, I guess that motherfucker doesn’t have anything better to do) argue about what the aliens’ plan is.
Their plan has two prongs: prong one is to send a signal into space using the same space-signaller that once signalled them. It is thwarted by an astrophysicist, Brooklyn Decker, and an army guy with prosthetic legs, who fights an alien by kneeing him with his prosthetic legs. Prong two is to send these giant chainsaw-globe things, like flying buzzsaws wrapped in a chainsaw and then wrapped in ANOTHER CHAINSAW to destroy Hawaii’s interstate highway system. This portion of the attack succeeds.
Eventually, Taylor Kitsch’s battleship gets blown up by one of those chainsaw things, and now there are no battleships left except for the USS Missouri, a steam-powered battleship from WWII that is now a museum. Of course, it is a museum, and so doesn’t have any fuel or live ordinance or anything like that, and also no one knows how to drive it (BECAUSE IT IS A MUSEUM), but then it turns out that the octagenarian crew who drove the ship sixty years ago are just there, hanging out on the boat. Literally, Taylor Kitsch says, “Where are we going to find a crew?” and he looks around and there they are! One guy is standing by a gun turret, someone else is sitting on a ladder, when Taylor Kitsch turns back the captain of the boat appears AS IF BY MAGIC to lead the Battleship Missouri out to fight the alien space battleship. Also, somehow it’s got ordinance for its guns again, I don’t know, maybe the old guys brought it with them.
They blow up the alien space battleship. Liam Neeson lets Taylor Kitsch stay in the Navy. Taylor Kitsch is going to marry Brooklyn Decker and have just insanely attractive kids. The aggressive, militaristic aliens, not having heard from the hundred-billion-alien-dollars scouting party that they sent to the planet that was sending out radio signals decide to just forget about the whole thing.
In no particular order, here are some of the many fucking things that are horrible about this horrible fucking movie:
1) It takes 48 minutes for the aliens to arrive. That would be halfway through a regular movie, but because Peter Berg fucking hates your stupid ass for going to see a movie based on the board game Battleship, THIS movie is two hours and eleven minutes long. It’s like he tacked a shitty fifty-minute PRE-MOVIE onto the front of an even shittier actual movie about aliens fighting battleships.
2) After the aliens put up their dome, all the radar goes out, and all that’s left to find the alien battleships is data from tsunami buoys, or something. So, a Japanese guy figures out that he can use this to make a GRID, labeled with letters and numbers, and — because the aliens always land directly on top of one of the buoys — can call out something like “F23″ and then Rhianna shoots a missile at the alien spaceship and it misses, except eventually they hit one. JUST LIKE THE GAME BATTLESHIP OH MY GOD YOU GUYS! So exciting.
3) Since it’s the Japanese guy who figures out the grid system, Taylor Kitsch basically does nothing of note throughout the entire movie, except engage in an abortive attempt to RAM THE GIGANTIC SPACESHIP with his battleship, the John Paul Jones (in the Navy, different classes of ships are named after different things, like presidents or states; Taylor Kitsch was on a battleship named after Led Zeppelin band members. The USS Jimmy Page and the USS Robert Plant did not survive the fight with the alien spaceships). The one thing he does do is exactly the same tactic that Kiera Knightly (?) uses in Pirates of the Caribbean, where you go real fast and then drop your anchor and this somehow suddenly turns your 45,000 ton battleship so that you can fire a broadside at your enemy.
4) For further evidence that bonehead screenwriters Erich and Jon Hoeber didn’t even bother to check in with Battleship’s official US Navy sponsor regarding how boats fucking work, they do the same thing in this that happened in Star Trek, where the captain of the boat dies, and (in this case) Taylor Kitsch chickens out and hides in the toilet, and no one knows what to do.
Attention dummies: the chain of command goes ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE LAST GUY. If the second guy doesn’t want to do it, you just GET THE FUCKING THIRD GUY. Are you really seriously telling me that you believe that the Navy hasn’t thought of this, “the boat can’t go if only two people know how to drive it” conundrum?
5) It’s pretty clear that no one really gave a shit about this script, and that NBC/Universal woke up one morning after some ill-advised drunken-coke-binge-acquisition spree in which they literally just started buying up the rights to anything anyone had ever heard of, and then something like this happened:
Universal: Hey, do you want to make this movie Battleship?
Peter Berg: No.
Universal: Here’s a million dollars.
Peter Berg: Okay.
Universal: There’s a really good conflict here, the red battleships hate the white battleships, and so they fight.
Peter Berg: Okay.
Universal: You’re going to have to add some subplots in it to round it out, though.
Peter Berg: Can I put in space aliens?
Universal: Sure, man, no one gives a shit.
6) The main purpose of this movie — since no reasonable human being could possibly have imagined that they’d make a lot of money on a 200 million dollar “blockbuster” about a boardgame that no one has even played since the invention of Starcraft — appears to have been fellating the entire uniformed armed services community of America. The movie has got all kinds of real live actual soldiers in it, including representatives from: the Army, the Navy, the Japanese Navy (I don’t know if this is American or not?), Hawaiian policemen, Old Guys Who Fought in World War II, and whatever branch of the services has all the guys in suits who sit around sending inhumane orders that ship admirals can contemptuously dismiss.
With all due respect to our many Men and Women in Uniform — we all respect your sacrifices for defending our freedom from the Iraqis or whoever else is trying to take it, et cetera and so forth — you guys can’t act. Sorry. When Peter Berg puts you in a movie, it doesn’t look like he’s honoring your nobility and courage and sacrifice and other such Navy-endowed characteristics; it looks like he just wants everyone to think Navy guys are a bunch of wooden-faced dummies.
If you work on a boat and a man asks you if you want to be in a movie in which you play a man working on a boat that fights alien space-battleships so that it will look “realistic”, tell him “no.”
7) In the US Armed Forces’ long tradition of “backing the wrong fucking horse”, can you believe that the Pentagon pulled cooperation from The Avengers because they were confused by SHIELD, and kept throwing money at this giant turd?
8) A small part of me is sad that this movie didn’t do well, because that means there probably won’t be a bunch of sequels in which the Navy fights different existential threats to Earth, including: Battleship 2: the Navy versus Ghost Pirates, Battleship 3: the Navy versus a Wizard, Battleship 4: the Navy versus Cthulhu, and Battleship 5: the Navy versus the Evil Navy from a Parallel Earth.