Flushed with the monetary if not critical success of “Transformers”, Hasbro has been rummaging around in their toy cupboard for another franchise.
Deciding that a board game consisting of guessing where your battleships are hidden to the refrain of “Hit” or “Miss”, one imagines would have been low on their wish list.
However, investing a production budget of some $200 million, it had better be a “hit” otherwise someone will be in trouble.
Wisely deciding that filming a board game will not be enough, the creative force behind the film have decided that adding cool Aliens and spaceships to the mix, courtesy of some excellent SFX work by ILM, would enliven the story.
The story such as it is, centres around two brothers, one Commander Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) a straight up and down “Hoorah” Navy officer, the other a deadbeat waster Alex (Taylor Kitsch), not averse to breaking into a convenience store to steal a Burrito to impress a girl.
The Navy will sort all that out and before we know it, Alex is lieutenant Hopper, in the same mould as his brother but with rougher edges and a penchant for trouble.
All is well and we are treated to many, many shots of US Navy ships cleaving through the Pacific ocean, clearly very much with the approval, endorsement and general we are happy to help, from the US Navy in Hawaii. On occasions so much so, that you expect a application form to be distributed with each ticket or DVD.
Aliens then arrive to spoil the Naval war games, interestingly a multi-national force headed by Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), presumably as a nod to a worldwide audience base. The Aliens land in the sea and then proceed to attack humans and weapons only if they perceive a threat to them, handily indicated with a red or green HUD.
The initial alien force is believed to be a scout force who need to send a message home to call in the troops, via the handy satellite array on Hawaii, ironically the very signal that has been beaming out in a search for intelligent life.
Humans obviously want to stop them to “save the world” and that’s about it story wise. Although the people left on land get some better lines, real life double amputee Mick Canales (Gadsen) and scientist Cal Zapata (Linklater) with some decent banter “Who talks like that” Cal asks, he does have a point.
Liam Neeson has been co-opted in as Admiral Shane, father to the pretty girl Alex Hopper is chasing (Brooklyn Decker) and lends some gravitas to the proceedings, although even he looks uncomfortable in the role. Rather bizarrely, Rihanna is also on board as a Wep’s petty officer, presumably filling another demographic niche.
So with no real plot other than that sketched out above, the visuals and effects will have to be top notch to turn this into an event movie to recover the budget outlay.
The effects as you might expect from ILM are superb, water cascades from monstrous ships, clever chainsaw type wrecking balls carve through ships, cars and freeways with an awesome destructive force.
There is much fun to be had in these sequences, they are ridiculous enough to not resemble real life and much like Transformers, if you like to see stuff blow up, this could be your movie. Later in the film, something is bought to life with the help of “old salts”, they cannot be serious you might ask, clearly they are.
The acting, dialogue and motivations of all characters are all but non existent. Does this detract from the spectacle, not so much but if you are expecting any depth, look elsewhere.
One would certainly hope that a military trained officer would react in a more professional manner when faced with adversity. Deciding to ram the aliens with your destroyer killing all on board, is presumably not a sane or proportionate response as indicated by Naval regulations.
Director Peter Berg has certainly thrown a lot of stuff on the screen, more quantity rather than quality and as mentioned before, this film makes even Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbour”, appear unpatriotic by comparison.
You have been warned.
Interestingly the plan to make the film more international in content clearly worked, US Box office was a miserly $65m, with International markets contributing $237m. Movie execs finally working out that there are people outside of the US that like to watch movies.
Daft, yes. Fun in parts, equally yes. An opportunity wasted to make a film with some meaning, plot and characterizations, yes.
If you remove brain, enjoy corn, always secretly wanted to be in the Navy and fight aliens, then this is the film you have been waiting for.