Battleship

battleship-dvd.jpg

I know this movie came out a while ago, but I just recently discovered it. It was intriguing to me, and here's a look at why. 

Battleship was brushed aside as a run-of-the-mill “aliens want to take over the earth, and that really irresponsible, inexperienced guy can save us blah blah blah” sort of movie. My visceral reaction is that, at it’s core, Battleship wanted to show aliens blowing up our warships, and showing how tough our Navy is. So then, why do I find myself gravitating towards rooting the aliens?  It’s obvious that the main character, Hopper, an irresponsible fruitcake, is the one we ought to be rooting for. I suppose we also ought to feel some amount of pity for him, and be impressed with his perseverance….but I just find him to be stupid. Maybe that’s why I find myself liking the aliens so much. Its rather interesting, too, because the aliens aren’t just reckless; blowing everything up just willy nilly at random.

Their actions are defensive. They cut off supply lines and local military support, and don’t directly attack living things, such as kids playing baseball, a herd of horses, or even a fully armed navy soldier standing in the same room. Its only when the aliens are shot at first, do they respond in kind. They aim for machinery and weapons systems, and its then that people die as collateral damage. It is true that the aliens are high-strung. It doesn’t take much to make them retaliate, and when they do, they finish the job completely, which means people die and things are destroyed, but can you blame them? Let me explain what I mean:

It could be argued that they are a short-term team there only to establish contact with the “mother ship” in order to reign down destruction on earth. Actually, that’s what the movie wants us to think. The problem is that this is all tied together by a “vision” that Hopper had while one of the aliens was holding his head. Hopper didn’t tell anyone about this, though. He only said that he had a bad feeling about the presence of aliens on earth. And I’m over here going “Really? There is a completely new species of intelligent being with new technology, tactics, language, customs, culture, biology and personalities literally standing in front of you. Of course you have a bad feeling about it.” Things that are unfamiliar to us often fill us with dread or nervousness before excitement, and Hopper had lost his brother at the hands of the aliens before this happened, AND his crew is trapped inside a forcefield and outnumbered. He has plenty of reason to be more than skeptical, but I don’t think that the movie can justify slipping in a destruction of the world cliche here. Throughout the movie, that is the driving force of the actions of the characters. They assume that the aliens are militant, and trying to communicate with the rest of their military in order to call down reinforcements to start an invasion. Did it not occur to the characters that the small number of alien ships could have been an exploratory team? In the beginning of the movie, one of the alien ships collided with a earth satellite, careening off course, and smashing into Hong Kong. The characters deduced that the crashed ship was a communications ship. That is totally legitimate, but what bothers me is that, again, it is assumed to be aggressively militant. The aliens could have had a lexicon of their language, and translators housed on that ship. It could very well have been purely peaceful. Then why did the aliens come armed to the teeth, you ask? Because they aren’t stupid. Explorers take weapons with them for utility and protection in case of an emergency. In my opinion, an emergency is exactly what happened.

These aliens came to earth as explorers, or as a “first contact” squad, but lost their chief communications tech at the last second. They took self-protective measures, which were probably learned from previous experience. They were highly interested in self-preservation, and lashed out at anyone or anything that threatened them. At that point, they only cared about “phoning home”, and they are unlucky enough to be confronted with the World Navy, who had convened in one spot for one week of the year. The aliens didn’t know what the Navy wanted, but they did know that these earthlings had weapons powerful enough to hurt them, and that there were a lot of ships. The aliens also could identify where the original communicative beam sent out by earth came from. They were smart enough to understand that they could use that tech to call in a rescue team, and were afraid that they would die on this new planet if they didn’t. They essentially called off the exploratory/contact mission, and focused upon retreat. Unfortunately, the Navy got in the way, and with both sides at high tensions, a fire fight commenced. Neither side wanted to give up lives, but both did so in the process of attempting to protect themselves. As I see it, it was a miscommunication.

Hopper’s little vision-thing can be attributed to extreme stress and cultural influence. He’s seen the alien movies of the time, (which I assume to be present-day), so he’s seen Independence Day, Alien VS Predator, Ender’s Game, and has heard all of the UFO stories out there being the bum he was. Its ingrained in our culture that aliens come only to destroy, and so that is the first thing Hopper’s mind jumps to. Also, during that scene, as a side note, I really feel bad for that alien they dragged out of the water. Its [hastily] explained afterward that these beings are sensitive to light, but Hopper shone a flashlight directly into the poor alien’s fully-dilated pupil. If you’ve ever had your eyes dilated at an optical clinic, you know how a bright light affects your eyes: it hurts! Now imagine that a hundred times worse. Hopper probably, (accidentally), did some real damage to that eye. No wonder the alien reacted like he did.

My point in all of this rambling is that Battleship didn’t need to have shoved the alien-invasion thing down our throats. The movie actually could have been quite a bit more interesting if they had put forward the concept of miscommunications in dealing with an entirely new race, culture and language. Instead, its an undertone that, frankly, looks more like an accident. It could have been almost realistic in a way. The fact that the film seemed to choose the wrong focus is what killed it. Most everything else is there: character development, visual effects, and even the story elements aren’t all that bad. Even Hopper becomes sort of redeemable by the end of the film. As a character, he has learned and grown. The film just has the wrong angle; it put the wrong foot forward. I mean, come on. They have Liam Neison at their disposal. They could have rocked that. 

Either way you slice it, I really love watching this movie. I can appreciate something that has hints of the right stuff, even if the rest of it doesn’t add up, especially when its fun to watch. Seriously, for all the criticism I give it, I think its a ton of fun. One of my favorite moments is when the aliens get distracted by the horses. The one alien is just like “Ooh, hey! What are you things?!” Perhaps its a glimpse of the exploratory curiosity. If they were aggressively militant, they would have blown the horses to smithereens. Just saying.

Also: the aliens have the greatest looking hands. I just want to take this concept and run with it!! I think I'll post some sketches soon.