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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.
Saddled with an overworked air of mystery that turns into vagueness and a little too much of a sullen atmosphere for its own good, Michael Petroni’s Backtrack finds one seemingly committed and haunted-looking Adrien Brody a little lost for guidance in how to bring about this effectively moody, but not at all frightening ghost-fest fiasco to light.
Set and shot in Australia, Backtrack tells the story of a troubled psychotherapist, Peter Bower (Brody sporting a relatively decent Aussie accent), who has recently moved to a new town for a fresh start with wife, Carol (Baird), after the loss of their young daughter Elvie (O’Farrell) to an incident caused by his own negligence. Unable to come to terms with her death and still very much haunted by crippling flashbacks, it takes some time for Peter to realise that a large portion of his most recent clientele – who all seem to be believe it’s 1987 - are actually ghosts, including one spooky-looking young girl named Elizabeth Valentine.
Unsure whether what he is seeing is real or if he’s having some sort of a mental breakdown, Peter decides to seek advice from friend and fellow therapist, Duncan Stewart (Neill wasted in his role), who thinks that there is a connection between his own personal tragedy and his latest array of patients, especially young Elizabeth, forcing him to go back to his hometown and investigate the repeated reference to 1987.
While the presence of the committed and reliable Oscar-winner, Adrien Brody, adds a note of credibility to proceedings, there is still a deep lack of complexity and originality in Michael Petroni’s derivative script which, unlike Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense which clearly is the main source of ‘inspiration’ here, seems to favour the style-over-substance approach. Predictability and familiarity are also plaguing factors and the fact that the audience can probably work out where the story is headed long before its leading man, doesn’t really leave Backtrack with enough storytelling power to pull itself out of the mess.
In the end, it’s relatively safe to say that Petroni’s second feature film – see 2003’s Till Human Voices Wake Us - leaves a lot to be desired. There is a decent idea in there somewhere and the air of intensity is somewhat effective, but what might have sounded good on paper doesn’t really necessarily translate on the screen. It's as if the film tries so hard to set the mood, that it forgets that in needs the occasional pop.
Serving as both a prequel and a sequel to the 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, the visually engaging but otherwise completely lifeless, The Huntsman: Winter’s War has arrived in the form of one big icy lump of disappointment. It’s a painfully unexciting fantasy adventure which fails to build any sort of intrigue, interest and innovation with it's potentially deep mythology
The Huntsman: Winter’s War begins with a lengthy prologue - set long before Snow White defeated the Evil Queen, Ravenna (Theron) - where we learn about Ravenna’s younger sister, Freya (Blunt) who, is betrayed a secret lover, has managed to awaken her magical powers of controlling ice and has now fled to the North to rule over her own glacial kingdom.
Having built an army of Huntsmen to conquer the lands and eventually defend her wintry palace, Freya is soon angered when she learns that two of her very best warriors, Eric (Hemsworth) and Sara (Chastain) have broken the ultimate rule and fallen for one another. She separates the two lovers through an act of dark magic and several years later, with Snow White now in power, Eric is trying to get back to some sort of normality; but when goblins take control of the Magic Mirror, Eric goes on a quest that soon leads him to his long-lost love.
Helmed by first-time director, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan - the French filmmaker was in charge of the special effects in the previous film - and scripted by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin of Hercules, Hangover II fame, the film takes itself far too seriously; a characteristic that paints the plot passionless and detached. Fetching visuals and the elaborate costumes keep things interesting, but the rich imagery cannot make up for the fact that the story is flat and painfully uninvolving, despite the film’s accomplished cast.
Hemsworth and Chastain, whose love affair is the supposed heart of the story, share very little chemistry, whilst both Blunt and Theron offer performances that seem to do no more than go through the motions. It’s an unconvincing and a joyless piece of filmmaking which feels empty, forced and most of all, unmagical.