WE didn’t have high hopes for Taylor Kitsch’s latest sci-fi starrer, “Battleship”—after all, what kind of story can one expect from a film inspired by a toy franchise, like “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe”?
The actioner’s stodgy title and toy-line origin weren’t the film’s only drawbacks for us. Kitsch was stricken off our to-root-for list after we saw him cheekily (and irresponsibly) fibbing on David Letterman’s show (to promote the box-office debacle, “John Carter”) about his unfortunate experience with a Filipino Customs officer—who allegedly wanted an iPhone from him—during the Southeast Asian shoot of Oliver Stone’s “Savages.”
As it turned out, the actor did visit Asia—but, the shoot was in Indonesia, not the Philippines!
This week, Kitsch is getting a new lease on his acting life by way of Peter Berg’s alien-invasion saga, “Battleship”—an engaging and entertaining hybrid of “Independence Day” and “Transformers” that sets the pace for this year’s summer-blockbuster season.
The movie isn’t just about a Navy slacker, Alex Hopper (Kitsch), who can’t find the courage to ask for the hand of his boss’ daughter in marriage; it’s also about a reluctant hero who wages war against superior extraterrestrial invaders known as “The Regents.”
We expected a catastrophe
—but, the movie isn’t bad. True, there’s not much pleasure to be had in the script’s lousy dialogue, which would have sounded rigid and simplistic if the roles weren’t appropriately cast.
Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna (in her acting debut) take to their two-dimensional characters like ducks to water. But, if you’re looking for depth, you’re likely to find it only in the Pacific Ocean, which acts as the action romp’s vast battleground.
Despite its missteps, the movie has an ace up its sleeve: Berg is no slouch at storytelling (as he demonstrated in 2008’s “Hancock”)—even if the script he’s working on has humongous holes. Moreover, as he proved in 2007’s Middle Eastern war drama, “The Kingdom,” the actor-director knows how to heighten the thrills in action-packed sequences, by smartly utilizing CG-heavy special effects to build excitement, not distractions.
‘Titanic in 3D’
We also made it a point to attend the special screening of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s “Titanic” to see how James Cameron has reconfigured his schmaltzy Best Picture Oscar-winning romantic blockbuster into 3D. Verdict: Good and bad.
The film that catapulted DiCaprio to superstardom was first released in 1997—and it looks smashing in its new three-dimensional format, proving that Cameron is the genre’s preeminent master (sorry, Messrs. Spielberg and Scorsese)! He doesn’t use the 3D technology merely as a gimmick, and the ethereal images he conjures up don’t distract viewers from the story.
The movie tackles interweaving themes—class wars, forbidden love, the downside of technology, nostalgia, etc.—each one staged with clockwork perfection.
Unfortunately, 15 years after it was first screened, the weakness of “Titanic’s” script is as jarring as ever: It’s a three-hour-plus hodgepodge of mush that, while thrilling, sometimes defy logic—as exemplified by that old couple spooning as they await their imminent doom, with the angelic humming of “My Heart Will Go On” in the background. —Oh, please.