erik lundegaard

Battleship
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Battleship (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

The big question in alien invasion movies is generally: What’s their major malfunction? In “War of the Worlds,” it was bacteria. In “Signs,” water. Here? They’re biped lizard creatures so they’re vulnerable to ... wait for it ... sunlight. For creatures attacking Earth, that’s a little less dopey than water but not by much. Sunlight is bad for them so they go to Hawaii? What’s the matter with Seattle? Even Edward was smart enough to hang on the Olympic peninsula.

I’d heard “Battleship” had been unjustly sunk by critics and audiences. I’d heard it was better than that. Or at least better than the “Transformers” movies. Which is like saying a number is bigger than zero.

IMDb.com is actually helpful in this regard. It lets us know that People who liked this also liked ... and then a list: Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” “Battle Los Angeles,” “I Am Four,” and “Green Lantern.” A film festival in hell.

So why do these aliens come here in the first place? Because scientists send a signal into outer space inviting them. Stupid scientists. Brainiacs. With their brains.

Who’s our protagonist? An impetuous ne’er-do-well named Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who has an older, steadier brother in the Navy, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård), and who, because he’s trying to impress a girl in a bar who looks like a supermodel (supermodel Brooklyn Decker), winds up with a choice between prison and the Navy. He goes Navy with his brother. He also goes with the supermodel. She’s actually a physical therapist. She’s also the Admiral’s daughter. For a change.

Then the aliens land and everything that was wrong about Alex turns out to be right. He’s the wrong guy in peace but the right guy in war. His steady brother buys it early (loser), his Japanese antagonist, Capt. Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano of “Ichi the Killer” fame), becomes his comrade, and he hangs with a petty officer who looks like a supermodel (supermodel and singer Rihanna). Together they take on the aliens.

The assumption, made early and often, is that the one alien ship that burned up entering our atmosphere was the communication ship; so the aliens are going to use our communications system to contact the home planet with the message, “Bring more. Easy pickings.”

How do we know this is the message they want to send back? We don’t. How do we know they’re not scared and asking for help? Because that would involve empathy, dude, and they’re fucking lizard creatures. In fucking warships. What are you—a fucking scientist? A brainiac? With your brain?

Still, one wonders at what point the aliens’ message would continue to be: easy pickings. After they’ve lost one ship? Two? Four of the five? Just before their final ship is blown up by a decommissioned battleship, the U.S.S. Missouri, and its crew of hotheads and supermodels and geriatric war veterans? It’s all so stupid. We’re paranoid that the aliens are going to attack in greater numbers with their superior technology, but their technology isn’t superior. They get beat by octogenarians.

So, rah rah, we win. Hopper gets promoted, Rihanna gets wet (no umber-ella), the crippled war vet finds a purpose, and the cowardly scientist demonstrates a modicum of courage at the right Han Solo moment.

Brainiacs with their brains fuck it up but gung-ho military sorts sort it out. Yet another liberal message from the liberal folks in liberal Hollywood.

—September 20, 2012

© 2012 Erik Lundegaard

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