Writing the first FotW article, I honestly didn’t think I would be able to follow through with another news story as profoundly ridiculous as an Angry Birds film. But lo and behold, Hollywood provides, even when you don’t ask! The recent trailer for the upcoming film Battleship has faced its fair share of animosity amongst the film community, raising a number of concerns over the sad state of blockbuster moviemaking and dammit, the industry’s own proclivity to generate some worthless looking pieces of garbage. Seriously, the film is based on a board game about sinking a toy ship through haphazard guessing… and with an ABSURD $200 million budget. Hasbro, the toy company responsible for instigating director Michael Bay’s Transformers series, is the expected culprit for the upcoming film. Featuring an overly inflated budget and a conceited premise that puts even Bay’s goliath to shame, Battleship quickly turns the titular 1980s board game into masturbatory CGI spectacle without even any discretion or restraint. The trailer witnesses some terrible-looking characters, extravagant (and questionable) special effects, and the camera’s constant ogling of bikini-clad girls (actually, just the model Brooklyn Decker). So yeah, this is Transformers. Actually… since the special effects of the trailer are dodgy at times, the film may share more similarities with Transmorphers, the off-brand, direct-to-DVD insult to cinema brought to you by the exploitative “blockbuster cash-in” movie company The Asylum.
Peter Berg directs Battleship, following some minor TV work and his other major movie releases including Hancock, The Kingdom, and Friday Night Lights (and a few others not worth mentioning), the three of which are mildly decent at best with the last title earning a little more personal appreciation. Yet this piece of information is a bit incidental given the fact that Jon and Erich Hoeber pen the screenplay, following the slightly amusing but unremarkable Red and the completely appalling Whiteout. I doubt that Berg can save the film given the trailer’s horrendous fuck-fest of maniacal CGI obsession and a faintly bored looking cast. Liam Neeson jumps out quickly as the popular name in the list of stars, barking out orders in his satisfyingly gruff voice à la Clash of the Titans’ “Release the Kraken!” line. Still, it’s a sad notion that the talented actor is relegated to condescending B-movie trash as Battleship, considering his Oscar-worthy role in Shindler’s List not so terribly long ago (1993? Feels like yesterday…). Taylor Kitsch is “onboard” (HA! HA!) the film as well after his long run on the Friday Night Lights television show (a project where Berg’s name is also attached to) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine as Gambit. Kitsch also plays the eponymous protagonist in the upcoming John Carter, a live action Disney adaptation of the pulp sci-fi A Princess of Mars, but that movie looks “leagues” (HA! HA!) better than Battleship’s blatant overconfidence. Besides Neeson, Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano and Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård (yes, the son of Stellan Skarsgård, another fine actor) are the only other two leading actors that look promising enough. Asano is a relatively unknown name in American cinema (minus a secondary role in Thor), but dammit, he was in Ichi the Killer, and I love that movie. Skarsgård, son of Stellan, previously worked in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, a film which I still desperately need to see when it eventually attains its wide theatrical release, and also has a leading role in True Blood as Eric Northman.
But then of course, there are the female leads in the film, both of which are undoubtedly meant simply for eye candy as one-dimensional characters lacking any sense of basic personal development and complexity. As mentioned earlier, model Brooklyn Decker is also involved with Berg’s movie, because her role in Just Go with It reflected her credentials as a gifted actress, right? Regardless of the casting of a swimsuit supermodel, it’s the inclusion of pop singer Rihanna that’s really triggered discussion on her possible role in the film. Will she follow in the footsteps of Decker and become mere eye candy, or will she assert herself as a strong female protagonist in the vein of the tomboyish Michelle Rodriguez? …Or will she perform a song/dance number in a sudden leap of complete tonal inconsistency? But seriously, the casting of figures with barely any acting experience signifies Hollywood’s insistence on pushing the “brand name” that celebrity stardom allows for, drawing audiences in merely for familiar names rather than actual credibility as a serious film. Katy Perry’s role in The Smurfs and Drake and Nicki Minaj’s upcoming appearances in Ice Age: Continental Drift certainly attests to the notion, but hey, if Justin Timberlake can transcend the popstar celebrity barrier and actually convey genuine acting talent (he was fantastic in The Social Network), then maybe Rihanna can do so as well. We’ll see.
In the end, the fact that a board game is receiving a big budget movie deal reveals the extent in which modern filmmaking has abruptly solved what must have been some serious writer’s block if Battleship is all Hollywood has to offer. I can picture it now: every scene, every moment, every emotion, all hanging on one commander’s decision to blindly shoot at one area of ocean over a different area in the attempt to sink the enemy. Is this drama? Hell, even the aerial shots of the battlefield instantly recall the “fast-paced” tension of the original board game as players lazily call out coordinates to peg battleships to death (the missiles do look like pegs, even latching unto the sides of the vessels). A mix of Transformers, Battle: Los Angeles, Skyline, and many other recent CGI-fueled sci-fi films of late are clear influences for the upcoming movie, whose bizarre trailer makes even CollgeHumor’s Minesweeper preview look legit (and much more promising). Hopefully Battleship will fail miserably at the box office, lest we want board game film adaptations to become the epitome of serious American summer filmmaking. Because honestly, if Monopoly translates as a Boardwalk Empire-esque gangster film or Connect Four becomes a heist movie where characters hack into security systems with a “connect four”-type setup, then all I have left to present to the world is this one little display of emotion.