This posting is about, again, the many online productions that pretend to be so much more than they are, and that sometimes, if you know it is not something big, don’t try to make it into something big:
I ended up watching Battleship tonight. Yes, I know I write that I have good taste in movies, but with mentioning this movie and a little earlier my posting about Wrath of the Titans, I will not hold it against you if you start to doubt my taste. Although I didn’t think they both were good movies, there was a huge difference. The similarity is that they both star Liam Neeson, and they both are about a lot of special effects to tell a very simple story.
The difference is, Wrath tries to tell a story, Battleship doesn’t even make that effort. Wrath felt like watching a dreaded corrupted popcorn flick where they ran out of soda, while Battleship felt like watching a 2 hour commercial for the Navy.
Acting was equally bad, the special effects good, and just a nice wallpaper while horking down a pizza. But I can picture the pitch for the movie so well:
Wrath: “Well, the first movie was crap, but we advertised the hell out of it and made a nice profit. Let’s do it again! Write a fake Greek opus and just torture it until there is nothing left. Let’s use a lot of lightning and lava and we’re practically done!”
Battleship: “Hey, we are Hasbro! Michael bay earned us billions on Transformers merchandise with abusing the 30 year old toys. We want you to do it now with THIS! Battleship!”
How can it not be that the head honcho’s at Universal looked at the Germans, scratched their heads and mentioned to go do things to themselves that I cannot describe here. I mean, Transformers, the toy on it’s own has at least something of a story. Not a lot of it, and not a good one, but come on. I mean… Battleship? Name a coordinate and blast a ship into oblivion? And it should start boosting up sales of this age old game? That is like asking a movie studio to make a movie out of ‘Sorry!’ or ‘Four in a Row’. It is just not going to happen? What’s next? Canasta! – the movie?
But, it was clear, from watching the movie, that both the director and the writers knew this was hopeless. So… they actually were smart about it. They did not even decide to spend any time to the story on their own, not to make it something that is not there. But, it felt like they just walked up to the U.S. Navy, told them that this was their game, and had some veterans use their strategic knowledge to tell a story. And, to be honest, I think it worked.
The movie is not a edge-of-the-seat kind of thing. I actually paused it to make my pizza, clean up the kitchen, and actually cook and cooled brownies. I could not care less about the characters, I had no clue why Rihanna was actually in there, and it was just not gripping. The acting was terrible. But still, what I liked about this movie was that the strategic elements made sense. It was not smart – I don’t want to go that far, but it was sound. And I am talking about, as an invading army, to set up communication first, and without it, war is very difficult.
Also, I liked the details that indeed reminded at the game. The bombs actually looked like the pins from the game, and what was a very nice detail is that the bombs were always dropping on the ships in rows, in even distances. And they actually got a very nice way of using coordinates of hitting the enemy without knowing where it is. It was not brilliant, but it was a smart way of actually getting the game into it.
And there was no story. There was no real motivation explained why the aliens attacked earth. Some elements nod towards the ‘harvesting the wealth of the planet’ concept, but there was just not any motivation. The movie just didn’t bother with it. And why should they? So, it was smart to just make it one big commercial for the Navy… smart! I think it worked out in their favor.
Still, it was 2 hours and 18 minutes of total waste in my life. But it didn’t make me turn it off. Even with the terrible acting, the idiotic aliens that seem to have an excellent bomb-guiding system, that only works in daylight. But then they are blind in the night, while the aliens themselves cannot stand sunlight? Ehm. It just was, well, a waste of time.
I won’t believe that Hasbro sold anymore games of Battleship because of this. But I do think there is a wise lesson to be learned here; don’t try to make your next production into something that it simply will not be. Don’t give it any depth it doesn’t need. Just make it do what it is supposed to do, and do that well.