By Joan Ellis
Editor’s note: Joan Ellis, feeling guilty about a generational antipathy to blockbusters, has asked 20-year-old Keenan Ellis to write the second half of this review in the interest of fair coverage.
Battleship is a summer blockbuster in three acts. Scientists have sent a signal to a planet with earthly qualities that might support life. While they wait for an answer, Act I introduces us to a good Navy man, his ne’er-do-well brother, and the beautiful blonde who happens to be the daughter of the admiral of the Pacific Fleet. In this best stretch of the movie, we watch naval maneuvers in the Pacific off beautiful Pearl Harbor while the audience tenses to the thought of “Oh no, it can’t happen there again.”
In Act II we meet the fleet. And then, Lo! Our signal is answered by the noisy, terrifying plunge into the ocean of a giant metal monster with articulated parts that allow it to move in sections. Portals open to release weapons of awful menace. Canisters pierce the metal skin of naval ships and blow them apart. Giant spiked balls destroy helicopters, planes, men, ships and buildings.
Dialogue? Typically, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” and “We are looking at an extinction level event.” Noise level? Deafening. Special effects? Astonishing. Star of the show: World War II battleship USS Missouri against aliens from Planet G. Act III: resolution and redemption, and P.S. Rihanna looks great behind a machine gun.
Keenan Ellis: There is a formula to blockbuster movies that makes itself painfully apparent in Battleship. We’ve seen it before and we will see it again. How many movies are out there that surround a misguided, potential wasting, hot-shot with short skirts, angry robots and larger-than-necessary explosions. Yes, this is the formula, exploited in films such as Transformers, and Armageddon. It is a formula that has recently become stale and has given way to a new one: the indie blockbuster, spearheaded by The Avengers. Battleship stays true to the old formula though, and unlike so many others, it stays true with genuine effort.
It’s a sad world we live in that notices when a production crew is trying hard, and an even sadder one when that hard work does not pay off. Director Peter Berg shoves his movie so full of clichés that, he nearly pulls a general miracle: We almost care about the characters. The film is at its hokey best when it calls upon its World War II veterans to sail the battleship into alien territory to save the world. The moment is as ridiculous as it is effective. The patriotism reaches a point that is so ridiculous it’s moving. However, there are too many uninteresting story lines and uncomfortable references to Pearl Harbor for this movie to take flight. Bogged down in the clichés that could have set it free, Battleship earns the title of bad movie, but not for want of trying.
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.