(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Battleship
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: Remember the classic boardgame Battleship? Well, they turned it into a movie. About an alien invasion.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: There is absolutely nothing essential about Battleship, but I promise you won’t be bored.
It takes effort to make a movie as thunderously stupid asBattleship. There’s an old adage that states no one sets out to make a bad movie, and I think that’s fair. Nearly every bad movie you’ve ever seen was made, at least on some level, with the best possible intentions. Someone, somewhere, be it a screenwriter, producer, or a director, had a dream and set out to turn it into a reality. And somewhere along the line, the dream became a nightmare, and the finished film ended up disappointing everyone. It happens.
But I think an exception can be made for Battleship. I genuinely believe someone, somewhere, decided to make a bad movie here. Or at least a stupid movie. And they succeeded! Battleship is a production of Hasbro Studios, and Hasbro is also responsible for the Transformers films. Critics had nothing but unkind words for the Transformers flicks, but it didn’t matter – those movies blew up the box office. And the folks at Hasbro said, “Well, what can we do next to make even more money?”
The answer was Battleship. And Hasbro was so fixed on the Transformers model that they more or less decided to make Battleship a Transformers movie. It has the same teal and orange color scheme as those movies, and it has the same amounts of mayhem – scenes where globs of CGI metal smash and crash their way through buildings and other structures, resulting in huge digital fireballs and ear-shattering explosions.
But for all of Transformers faults, most of those films had the guidance of Mr. Michael Bay. And while Bay is a flawed filmmaker, he understands style. The same can’t be said for Peter Berg, who directs Battleship. In Berg’s defense, his action scenes are a lot more coherent than the stuff Bay does in the Transformers movies. But so what? All that action still adds up to nothing. It’s a zero-sum game.
The plot, such as it is, involves hot-shot Navy guy Alex Hopper, as played by human void Taylor Kitsch. He more or less gets bullied into joining the Navy by his brother, Commander Stone Hopper, played by Alexander Skarsgård. That’s right, the character’s name is Stone Hopper. Oh, and Alex wants to marry the girl of his dreams, Samantha, played by Brooklyn Decker, a performer who has even less charisma than Kitsch, if such a thing is even possible. And wouldn’t ya know it, Samantha’s dad is a big Navy commander, played by Liam Neeson, who is really phoning it in here.
Any-hoo, aliens crash into the sea and now the Navy has to fight them. The aliens shoot missiles that look just like the pegs from the Battleship game. And at one point, our heroes have to use a big screen to chart the alien’s locations, just like the grid one uses when playing the game. It’s lazy, it’s stupid, it’s kind of amazing. Now, let me break down for you some stuff that happens in Battleship.
Rihanna is in this movie! She plays a character named Cora Raikes, but I’m pretty sure no one calls her by her name. Also: she wears a baseball hat the entire movie. And I mean the entire movie. There’s a scene where she falls into the water and deliberately holds the hat onto her head. No goddamn aliens are going to remove Rihanna’s hat, thank you!
Liam Neeson’s character shows up in the beginning and then leaves, only to show up at the very end as if to remind us all he’s part of the cast and to remind the producers he deserves a paycheck. A young Jesse Plemons plays the “funny guy,” and if you thought Jesse Plemons could not give a bad performance, I urge you to watch Battleship. There are multiple product-placements for Subway. We actually see the aliens in the movie, and they basically look like humans with weird fingers and quills shooting out of their chins that make them resemble Abe Lincoln. Did I already mention there’s a character named Stone Hopper? I’ll mention it again: there’s a character named Stone Hopper. And poor Stone dies early in this film – via explosion. His brother watches him explode, but because Taylor Kitsch stinks so much he doesn’t show even a trace of emotion.
All of this may sound like I’m not recommending Battleship. But here’s the thing: I watch movies while I’m using my elliptical machine, and I’ve found that I can’t watch good movies while I exercise. Because whenever I try, I find myself distracted by the movie. So instead of giving it my all and working up a sweat, I’m half-assing things to pay close attention to the screen. But if I put on a piece of grade-A garbage like Battleship, I’m ready to go the distance.
So here’s my recommendation to you, reader: if you’re looking for disposable junk to while away the hours during some unpleasant task, you can’t go wrong with Battleship. Otherwise, please, watch something better.
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