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Battleship: Humans Vs Aliens Action Flick
Summer is all but here and we have been blessed with another alien-action blockbuster based on a toy and no, this time around it’s not Transformers, though by the way this film’s been marketed, you’d think Battleship was an extension of the Transformers franchise; ‘Transformers at Sea’ if you will. And while the two films have several things in common, they’re also quite distinct. For one Transformers focuses on the robots - and truth be told, they’re pretty damn impressive - while on the other hand, Battleship, surprisingly, focuses more on the human characters. Neither of the films managed to combine the two - interesting robots/aliens and compelling humans that is- but the human element in Battleship makes it easier to get caught up and emotionally involved in the film.
NASA discovers a planet in a different solar system that has very similar conditions to Earth, conditions conducive to life, and promptly builds a satellite station in Hawaii to try and establish contact with any forms of extraterrestrial life that may be out there. The scientists discover the success of their experiment when five huge unidentified objects hurtle into our atmosphere. One takes out a huge chunk of Hong Kong while the rest crash land in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Hawaii, in the middle of a bunch of international navy fleets that have gathered for an exercise. A massive battle takes place between the aliens and the navy as the humans try and thwart the aliens’ attempts to communicate with their home base and send for reinforcements.
Since Battleship is being marketed towards the same demographic that made Transformers such a cash cow, you’d think they’d have put a bit more effort into their alien design. Firstly, their spaceships look like metal cubes, kind of like a rectangular version of the AllSpark cube in Transformers, and secondly, the aliens themselves look like tall, metal Power Rangers. Another thing is that it’s never really explained why the aliens come to Earth in the first place. All we get is the hypothesis that when the humans managed to establish contact, a few aliens decided to mosey on over here to check out our planet.. Thankfully, and this may be a product of entering the film with zero expectations, the humans mostly make up for the aliens and the general lacklustre visuals.
Kitsch plays Alex, a smart slacker with attitude issues who’s forced by his older brother, Stone (Skarsgard), to join him in the US Navy as a way of getting his life on track. Decker plays Samantha, Alex’s girlfriend, who’s a physical therapist and the daughter of the fleet’s captain. Thanks to the fact that the film clearly emphasizes Alex’s potential, his transformation from immature slacker to a bona fide leader is actually believable while Samantha, thankfully, gets to be more than just the token girlfriend and plays a large part in saving the planet as well. Rihanna makes her acting debut as a badass Navy officer named Raikes while Linklater plays Cal, a wimpy, nervous scientist and the source of most of the film’s comic relief.
The film as a whole takes a while to settle into its groove, but when it does it becomes quite engaging. By the final third, when the war reaches its peak, you’re actively rooting for the Navy and restraining yourself from cheering out loud and singing along to AC/DC. The film as a whole is far from perfect and is actually too uneven to be called good, but the final half hour is wall-to-wall fun, ending the film on a pretty high note.
Unable to take the plunge and fully immerse itself into its own pool of ideas, Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime – drawn from the pages of Elmore Leonard’s 1978’s novel, The Switch – is, sadly, neither here nor there.
Set in Detroit, Michigan circa 1978, Life of Crime is centred on inept and useless low-level criminals, Louis (Hawkes) and Ordell (Def), who hope to extract one million dollars from drunken real-estate developer, Frank Dawson (Robbins), for the kidnapping of his seemingly lonely socialite wife, Mickey (Aniston).
The plan seems pretty straightforward at first, but little did they know that Frank – who’s busy canoodling with his young mistress, Melanie (Fisher) at their vacation home in Florida – has already filed for divorce and is now more than happy to use this opportunity to sidestep the obligatory alimony payments.
Now that Frank has called their bluff, things get a little complicated for the hopeless thugs who have clearly not done their research and even more so when Mickey – who is being held hostage at a home of a Nazi-loving fanatic, Richard (Boone Jr.) – comes to realise that her matrimonial bliss has now truly come to end. The deepening relationship between Louis and Mickey only adds fire to the fuel, causing a riff between the two partners, who seem to be running out of both ideas and time.
While the film still manages to serve its purpose and deliver the goods – through a mix of black comedy and slow-burning tension –Schechter, who also wrote the adaptation, plays it too safe; an approach that doesn’t really allow for Elmore Leonard’s distinctive storytelling style to shine through. Life of Crime is not the first Elmore Leonard adaptation – see Tarantino’s Jackie Brown and Sonnefeld’s Get Shorty. Unlike those to adaptations, this lacks an edge, leaving it rather placid.
Aniston shines as the lonely trophy wife whose kidnapping – although distressing – also ends up being a one-way ticket out of her isolated and troublesome marriage. The actress, who is not usually seen in these types of roles, manages to show great versatility and the chemistry shared between her and Hawkes is equally convincing. Robbins is persuasive as the alcoholic, two-timing husband while Fisher was deliciously manipulative as the seductive mistress.
Capturing the 70’s era with plenty of polish and charm, Life of Crime is rather forgettable, despite occasionally popping into action – the source material deserved better.
Emerging from a lesser-known comic-book line, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel’s tenth, and possibly quirkiest, offering – proves to be a risk well taken.
Set entirely in the galactic immensity of outer space, Guardians of the Galaxy follows the story of Peter Quill (Pratt); a twenty-six-year-old Earthling who was abducted as a young boy and raised by The Ravegers – an alien gang of thieves led by the notorious, Yondu (Rooker).
Far away from home, Peter – a.k.a Star Lord – now roams the cosmos and soon comes across a special orb; a silver infinity stone that holds an incredible amount of power. Unfortunately, he’s not the only interested party and he is soon confronted by Korath (Hounsou); the right-hand man of one of the most villainous terrorists in the galaxy, Ronan (Pace), who wants to use the orb to overthrow a rival civilization run by Nova Prime (Close).
Intrigued by the high interest in his new discovery, Peter turns his back on Yondu, who sends assassin, Gamora (Saldana), to retrieve the orb.
He also soon attracts the attention of bounty hunters, Rocket (voiced by Cooper) – a sly raccoon warrior – and his best pal, talking tree-like human, Groot (voiced by Diesel).
After causing a public disturbance, Peter and his pursuers are soon put in prison and form a temporary bond, along with muscular inmate, Draz (Bautista), in order to break out and prevent the precious stone from falling into the wrong hands.
Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, Guardians of the Galaxy is refreshingly off-beat, steadfast and full of character. Visually, Gunn paints his intergalactic backdrop with plenty of colour, however some of the CGI tends to feel a little overcooked and the action-scenes – although pretty entertaining– feel a little unrefined.
Pratt – whose character and performance has already drawn comparisons to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones – proves to be a solid and extremely likable lead, while Saldana uses her trademark femme fatale penchant to great use . However, it’s Cooper as the chatty and cheeky raccoon, Rocket, and Diesel as the human-tree, Groot, that steal the show, adding a whimsy rarely seen in modern comic-book film adaptations.
Without household comic-book names to inject a bit of weight into proceedings, this is a film that could have found itself in the annals of failed comic-book adaptations, alongside Marvel flops such as Daredevil, Elektra and Ghost Rider.
But, armed with a funky 70’s soundtrack, likable characters, a witty temperament and thrilling action, Guardians of the Galaxy has arrived at the perfect time for Marvel, who – despite huge box office earnings with Captain America, The Avengers et al – were in dire need of a fresh canvas.