Not exactly the cinematic train wreck the trailers suggest, I will give “Battleship” – an adaptation of the Hasbro game – credit for exceeding my expectations.
This action adventure manages to have some fun moments here and there, but ultimately is nothing more than a lot of spare parts from better source material.
“Battleship” is basically another man fighting aliens for control over the Earth. This battle takes place in the Pacific Ocean with an international training exercise with several U.S. Navy fleets as the main line of defense.
Among the crews are Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a rogue officer about to be kicked out, his older brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), and their superior officer, Adm. Shane (Liam Neeson).
“Battleship” also throws in pop singer Rihanna as a petty officer and Brooklyn Decker as Shane’s daughter, who also happens to be dating Alex.
If you’ve ever seen a movie where aliens fight humans, you can pretty much map out exactly where “Battleship” is going. Director Peter Berg does get a few nice action sequences here and there, but for the most part this feels like some weird mash-up of “Transformers” and “Crimson Tide.”
There are also moments that hearken memories to other (and better) films as well, including “Alien,” “Predator,” “Independence Day” and “Top Gun,” almost to the point that it feels like it should be a parody.
“Battleship” doesn’t take that road, though, choosing to play it mostly straight. It’s a miscalculation because I think there is some fun to be had here. There is no way you won’t smile when the familiar board game grid is wedged into the story line. The final act throws in an unlikely turn that is pretty hokey, but also kind of cool.
In those moments, “Battleship” shows a bit of a pulse. For the most part, it just feels like a case of alien invasion deja vu.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is the uneven, but effective “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (B). It’s a fascinating portrait of a person trying to come to terms with an unspeakably tragic and horrific event. It is also at times a cinematic train wreck that can’t get out of its own way.
Written and directed by Lynne Ramsey, “Kevin” uses a fragmented storyline to follow Eva – a writer in a haze of grief and guilt after her teen son Kevin (Ezra Miller) goes on a killing spree at his high school.
“Kevin” shifts back and forth in time, leading up to and following the incident, with Eva trying to come to terms with why her son would do this – and exactly what role she had in allowing this to happen.
I had a lot of problems with the material – not the subject itself, but how it was presented. Ramsey’s direction is all over the place, with fleeting images and colors that only confuse the narrative and seem to serve as a way to provide Ramsey more time to get to the film’s final reveal. I also think Kevin is more of a horror movie villain. There is no real evolution or character development to elaborate on how Kevin arrived at the fateful decision to kill his classmates. Instead we get the cliched “He was just born evil” approach, which I feel lessens the dramatic impact.
But ultimately I think “Kevin” does work, and Tilda Swinton is the reason why. She really captures the despair and imperfections of Eve – the lonely isolation that comes with someone who believes she is truly responsible for an unspeakable tragedy. Swinton is able to give the film the emotional chord it needs to connect with the audience.
I may not have completely liked “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” but because of Swinton, I certainly won’t forget it.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is rated R for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language and will be available Tuesday on DVD.