The pReview Re-viewing of..
B A T T L E S H I P
(CLICK BELOW TO VIEW THE TRAILER IN A SEPARATE WINDOW)
(warning: contains profanity)
by Jeff Finck
The premise: Well, this is based on the board game of the same name which had pretty much zero plot.. Something, I'm sure this movie will happily keep in common. It was designed simply for you and a friend to practice Naval strategy in your very own living room! You and a friend.. Or you and an enemy.. Or you and a complete stranger.. How anyone got a story out of that, I'll never know. But I'm certainly glad they did!
Here's how this movie came to be based entirely on a conversation between me and my wife: Thirty five years ago, two brothers and a young Irishman sat down to play a rousing game of the phenomenally, hugely, successful game of Naval strategy released by Milton Bradley, Battleship. One of the brothers said to the second that someone should turn Battleship into a movie. Of course, the Irish gentleman scoffed and said (in an Irish accent), "It can't be done!" To which brother number one replied, "I bet you a million dollars it can. And me and my brother will be the ones to do it! AND you have to be in it!" That young Irishman? Liam Neeson. And those two brothers who turned this game of chance and skill into a movie (and subsequently won a million Irish dollars AND got a Liam Neeson cameo? Erich and Jon Hoeber, the writers of the screenplay.
As the trailer starts up, sweet guitars set us on what I am assuming is a sea gull's aerial path across the bows of the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), the USS Antietam (CG 54), and the USS Chancellorsville (CG 62). (I may be wrong, about the sea gull, but I assume that if anything else is flying that low over a Naval shipyard, it would be a red mist by now..) Then we see the always badass USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) just sitting wherever it feels like in the ocean. We're taken out of our military boner shots for a moment as it flips back to a beautiful Hawaiian setting with some girl just sitting all willy-nilly on her surfboard, doing her best USS Ronald Reagan impression. I assume her story is that she just broke up with her long term boyfriend and needed to go to Hawaii and learn how to surf from Paul Rudd.
This all leads to the first shot of our heroes: Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and Sam (played by the strangely attractive Brooklyn Decker).. I say strangely attractive because, though, not UN-attractive, I cannot pinpoint exactly what makes her attractive (Boobies, maybe?). But, you may ask, "What is Brooklyn Decker doing in a movie about robot aliens coming down and challenging a kid from Boston to a game of Battleship?" (I may not have the plot to this ironed out just yet..) I will explain: Brooklyn Decker is clearly Liv Tyler from Armageddon.
Alex and Sam discuss their future and have the following conversation:
Sam: "What are you doing tomorrow?
Alex: "I'm gonna tell your dad how I feel about you. And I don't care if it adversely affects my career because your dad is my Admiral.. Or if it affects the future of our relationship, or the fact that your dad is played by Liam 'Now is not the time for dick measuring, Stuart' Neeson! Whatever."
Based on history, I'd say this guy is kinda fucked. I once saw Liam Neeson kill 32 people the last time someone messed with his daughter.. So, some wet behind the ears officer is, I assume, no match. This is further proven by the Irish-brogue tongue-lashing he gets in the next scene by the aforementioned Mr. Neeson. Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) just feels that a young man with such wasted potential is simply not good enough for his daughter. And rightfully so. This guy plays rugby.. So you just know he's up to no good. And I don't think I would question Liam Neeson, either. Even if he told me to Slip 'N Slide on concrete. Without water. Or a Slip 'N Slide. Basically, he's just telling me to get a running start and just slide on my naked chest and belly on concrete.. I'd still do it!
After the verbal abuse, Alex ships out and is future with Sam seems uncertain. But you find out that the Navy (And I am, of course, assuming the entire Navy) is just off to do some "exercises". The crew are all lovely, decked out in their Tropical Whites (not as racist as it sounds). And then, like Doogie Howser, we are treated to some electronic typing, letting the audience know that we are officially on an "International Naval Drill" somewhere in the "Pacific Ocean" on "Day 1". Side note: this "Day 1" seems to be hinting that there will be more than one day, so I'm calling it right now, someone's Battleship will be sunk by Day 6.. and Liam Neeson had better be the one to say, "They sunk my Battleship!"
Before any of that can happen, however, we have to go back to Day 1 and get some kind of reason for that classic Milton-Bradlonian line to be said. And when an unknown object pops up in the middle of the ocean, the only named cast in the movie investigates. Now, investigating the unknown object is a difficult task that requires one person to actually do any of the work, and, of course, our rebellious, wasted-potential having young protagonist, Alex Hopper, is just that guy. In what I can only describe as completely reckless (pun intended), he jumps onto the wreck-age. I'd like to think that whatever is in the water gives him the abilities of Jesus, because he walks directly on said water, and then decides to lay hands on a completely foreign looking metal. Sure enough, you guessed it, this completely pays off. I mean.. completely gets him electrocuted.
The team scrambles to get him back to the ship. But before that can happen, Transformers 4: The Rise of Cobra explodes out of the water menacingly. The special effects are actually really well done. (I meant that as little backhanded compliment-y as possible..) We do end up with a pretty good sense of scale here, now, as we see a dome reach up into and beyond our troposphere, maybe even all the way into the stratosphere, MAYBE EVEN TO THE MOON!!!!! (nowhere near the Moon) This IS an interesting concept, though, because the powerful surge reaches up from Earth, implying these things (this thing?) have (has?) been laying dormant like a gargantuan Dino-zord that time forgot. It lazily leaps all Free Willy-style over the small task force and then launches hundreds of "pegs" out from an overhead shot like we just happened to stumble upon two massive Jupiter-sized children playing the titular game on their newfangled 3D globe board.. In space!
The trailer really down plays Alexander Skarsgård's character. He apparently plays Alex Hopper's older brother, Stone. Yes, his name is every seven year old's favorite 1920s riverfront past-time: Stone Hopper. Based solely on the amount they show him in the trailer, I assume he is in the movie a total of ten minutes, spread out across a few scenes and then dies sacrificing himself. (This paragraph added for a Alexander Skarsgård fangirl. ;P)
At this point, we reach the part I always look forward to in any preview: the moment when whichever character about whatever situation delivers the best line ever. You know what I mean: The line that, when you hear it in the theater, you get goose-bumps. You sit in your chair, waiting with bated breath, and then it comes.. The, "I'm going to find you, and I'm going to kill you." The utterly ridiculous, "Release the Kraken!!!" The powerful, "If you make yourself more than just a man, then you make yourself something else entirely.. A legend." And sometimes, the not-even-a-line and Liam Neeson just gives everyone a goose-bump inducing, lion's roar!
Admiral Shane: "Prepare to fire!"
Shipmate: "Sir, which weapons?"
Admiral Shane: "All of them."
BOOM! Liam Neeson continues to be the man, even when saying these fat meatball lines.. With the latest telegraphed loudly on boradband channels from every losing commander's mouth. The weapons fire, the screen explodes with those wonderful, familiar letters "B-A-T-T-L-E-S-H-I-P" and then May 2012. We have just under a year before getting those goose-bumps and seeing Liam Neeson paying up for whatever bet he lost. I will say one thing, I am glad he lost that bet, because this movie is going to be so terribly fantastic, that I don't even have to cross my fingers hoping my ten dollars will be worth it.
Battleship (2012) poster, trailer and screenshots courtesy of Universal Pictures
Battleship board game courtesy of Milton Bradley
Armageddon (1998) courtesy of Buena Vita Pictures
Space Battleship Yamato (2010) courtesy of Toho
Aslan and Chronicles of Narnia (2005) courtesy of Walden Media
All credited images found via Google Image searches