Yes, Battleship Is As Bad As You Think
Editor’s Note: Spoilers about below the cut. So don’t read if you don’t want to know! Though, I mean, you could just go to Wikipedia. It’s spoiled there too. Whatever. YOU’RE THE JERK. I’m going to go eat a donut.
For months, speculation has run rampant on Prometheus and whether it is or is not a prequel to Alien. I’m here to tell you that this was a red herring. Prometheus is actually a stealth sequel to Battleship. In Battleship, humanity broadcasts a message of peace to an alien world. The aliens come to Earth, damage their ships in a collision with a satellite, and set about attempting to contact their home. They meet a bunch of humans who make a loud noise at them, so they make a loud noise back. Then the humans fire at them and narrowly miss, so the aliens fire back. This starts a campaign of the humans tirelessly seeking to slaughter the aliens to the next man and the aliens… leaving them alone so long as they aren’t threatened.
In Prometheus, humans get a message from aliens and travel to another planet, where presumably they get raped in the face by alien wig-wam, and even more presumably, the aliens say “HOW DO YOU LIKE IT, BITCHES? HOW YOU LIKE ITTTTT?”
Now, generally it’s considered good form for a review to have a certain structure, guiding the reader through all aspects of the film’s performance. But hey, if they’re not going to be coherent, why should I? Let’s go with bullet points.
- The film starts off with Alex Hopper, brother of Stone Hopper (see, Hollywood, keep naming your kids after apples and sedan names, screenwriters will start thinking that shit is normal), wanting to impress a girl. She’s mentioning that she wants a burrito, so he offers to get her a burrito within five minutes. He goes next door to a mini-mart, but it’s closing, so he breaks in, grabs a burrito, and is tasered and arrested even as he gives it to her. Somehow, this strikes her as the behavior of a suitable life partner instead of the warning sign of one of those people who buy forty pounds of macaroni because “I found a really great deal!”
- See, Alex has the standard-issue Captain Kirk character arc of the hotheaded rebel who has to chill out. The film helpfully lets us know this ahead of time by having big bro Stone Hopper (if that’s not the name of a sex act, it’s about to be) make a quote about how adversity makes people better. This makes the movie’s point better than the next two hours of movie does, so you might as well leave the theater then. You’ll still be able to get a refund and you’re only missing about ten minutes of Liam Neesoning.
- Unfortunately, the actions required of Alex to save the day are such that any reasonable adult would do them (things like listening to good advice and… not committing suicide). Therefore, to have a character arc, Alex is given the impulse control of a fifth-grader who has just eaten a tenth of his body weight in sugar (c.f. the burrito).
- Just for instance, if you were minutes from asking your girlfriend’s father for his permission to wed, in fact you were literally rehearsing your pitch at that very moment, would you then get into a fistfight with someone you disliked? While on duty?
- If you had gotten into a fight with enemy ships, and your weapons were offline, and another ship was sinking and the crew needed rescue, would you decide to ram the enemy ship with your ship? You know, the one keeping you from drowning?
- Oh, and this guy? At the beginning of his character arc? He’s third-in-command of his ship. This guy is literally two heartbeats from the big chair, and his biggest personal growth in obtaining that rank was getting a haircut. I thought this was supposed to be a two-hour recruitment video for the Navy. If that’s someone I’d serve under, no thanks, I’ll take my chances in the Army. If someone orders you to ram into the enemy in a tank, your biggest problem is cleaning off the treads afterward.
- I should mention that the aliens’ big weakness is sunlight. Congratulations, Signs, you no longer have the stupidest aliens. Seventy percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, while one hundred percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in light. The aliens were probably trying to contact their homeworld to say “Oh shit, cancel the invasion, guys, these motherfuckers have light everywhere! It’s falling from the sky, man!”
- Yes, they do mention that the alien’s planet is the exact same distance from the deadly, deadly light as our planet is.
- Of the two female characters in this movie, both were obviously cast for their looks. Alex’s girlfriend is played by a Sports Illustrated model and the obligatory butch military woman is played by Rihanna. And don’t tell me Rihanna was cast because she’s a good singer. She’s the most sexualized singer in the industry (if Katy Perry released I Kissed A Girl today, Rihanna would do a song called I Kissed Two Girls In Front Of A Guy And Then I Blew The Guy And Then The Guy Spanked Me Because I Like It Rough) and she doesn’t even have a song on the soundtrack.
- One of the characters is a real-life military veteran who lost both legs, playing a disabled character. He’s a better actor than Rihanna and Brooklyn Dekker. The guy who was cast because he didn’t have any legs is a better actor than the actual actresses cast to do actual acting.
- What happened to the days when you cast a rapper in your movie and they’d do a song about the plot? Will Smith, the 90s, all his movies had a bit where he kinda summed up what his summer blockbuster had taught us, but in rap. In Deep Blue Sea, LL Cool J sang about how his hat was like a shark’s fin. What, the cast of Glee can sing about any goddamned thing they want, but a brother can’t sing about how he feels when aliens attack nowadays?
- Rihanna: I am the token strong female character and token black character. I’m just supposed to scowl and stay out of the conversation and say things like: “Damn,” “Boom,” and “Mahalo, motherfucker.”
- Note: Mahalo means thank you in Hawaiian. So I guess she’s… thanking the alien for blowing up?
- Yes, there is a scene where the heroes fight the aliens by playing Battleship FOR REAL. It’s pretty much like if there were a scene in Transformers where Shia LeBeouf had to control Optimus Prime by taking an action figure of Optimus Prime and moving it around, while making “pew pew” noises with his mouth to fire the guns.
- On the other hand, unlike Transformers, where the name of the movie is Transformers and it’s 90% about tanks and airplanes shooting the bad Transformers while the good Transformers fart and take robot-shits, here the plot is Battleship-centric.
- On the other, other hand – you know how in Transformers, there are all those weirdly fetishistic shots of military hardware, like tanks glistening in the sunset? Well that happens here, only with shots of a rehabilitation center for wounded veterans. It is honestly the most tone-deaf thing I have ever seen; all these “gee whiz” camera angles and badass music and the film is showing people who’ve lost limbs and are trying to recover enough to lead semi-normal lives without all of their original body parts.
- Speaking of tone-deaf, it’s not just aliens we’re dealing with here. It’s 9/11 aliens. There’s literally an entire sequence with no other point than reminding the audience of 9/11. The aliens crash into a building, the building collapses, we see people running from the dust cloud and being engulfed. Remember when there was a big debate over whether we should invoke 9/11 in movies about 9/11, like World Trade Center and United 93? I guess now the debate is how many people you can render falling out of a building. Next up, a jokey reference on Family Guy. “You think that’s bad Lois, what about 9/11?”
- It’s not even some tasteless bit of business to make us hate the aliens. The aliens crash into buildings completely on accident. You could have them crash into a hill or a forest and it would not change the plot one iota. The only reason the scene is written is for the cheap thrill of seeing 9/11 in IMAX. But, you know, it happens to Chinese people, so it’s okay.
- The movie also has a weird tendency to have, whenever the aliens attack a civilian target, a little kid looking on. Pathos, I guess.
- And yet, the aliens pretty much just attack military targets—and a highway. That’s conspicuous. “Alright, Rr’x'lpp, now destroy the enemy’s defenses and attack capability… and that highway. I don’t like its attitude!”
- You know how in some B-movies, you’ll praise one actor because “he knows what kind of movie he’s in”? Here, nobody knows what kind of movie they’re in. When you compare actors like Jesse Plemons and Taylor Kitsch, who learned to act from starring in a very naturalistic, documentary-style show like Friday Night Lights, and Rihanna, who learned to act from saying she ran into a door, it’s like you’re watching two different species. And one of the species is really bad at acting.
- Scientists are, of course, the ones who cause all the trouble, and are the most cowardly and unreliable characters in the cast. Yeah, scientists suck! Get back to work making it possible to show giant alien spaceships blowing up battleships on computers! Stop expanding the frontiers of mankind’s knowledge, you bastards!
- After two hours, the characters finally get onboard a battleship (up to that point, they were on destroyers, three of which sank. And no, no one ever says “They sunk our battleship!” or any variation). In a semi-touching moment, a bunch of retired WW2 veterans come aboard to help them work it. Question: How did they know they were needed? Did they get a tweet? No, of course they don’t have Twitter, they’re old as fuck!
- Fortunately, they’re both able to get the literal museum piece battleship working again and work with the multiethnic heroes without calling anyone a negress or anything. Which, let’s face it, was pretty likely.
- Now, this plot point is an obvious rip-off of both Battlestar Galactica and Star Blazers, but it does give the movie some actual personality. Since the movie is named Battleship, you’d think they’d get to that right away and we’d get a whole movie of wacky old people and groovy youngsters working together to fight alien scum. Nope! Last ten minutes!
- Not only does the alien’s sinister superweapon of calling for help because their fucking ride crashed get blown up twice (I guess the first time it happened they made a saving throw), but the disabled guy gets to box an alien. Thus overcoming his handicap by learning that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have legs when you can still punch things.
- In conclusion, you know The Avengers is still in theaters, right?