Battleship doesn’t have an original bone in its big-budget body. And for once, that’s a good thing.
Originality isn’t necessarily something Hollywood studios trade in during the summer season. The box office charts currently are teeming with comic book adaptations, sequels, remakes and reboots. But something about Battleship still feels overly familiar, as if we’ve seen a handful of these scenes before, perhaps in other like-minded blockbusters. The whole movie feels like Roland Emmerich’s sperm and Michael Bay’s sperm fertilized an egg Tony Scott cryogenically froze back in 1986, producing a “baby” with qualities of all of its “birth” fathers.
So before you see the Ship (and read Katey Rich’s review before embarking on said mission), revisit these classic action-movie sequences … and then determine whether Berg begged, borrowed or stole from his esteemed predecessors in adrenalized action.
The following points refer to specific scenes in Battleship. As a result, this column could be considered spoilery, but really, it’s a movie based on a board game, so how surprised do you need to be?
1) The Con Air introduction to our hero.
You all remember clean-cut soldier boy Nic Cage standing up for his beautiful wife (Monica Potter) by picking a bar fight in the opening scenes of Simon West’s Con Air. The act landed Cage’s character, Cameron Poe, behind bars … triggering West’s story. Battleship has a similar opening, where Taylor Kitsch breaks into a convenience store after hours so he can heat a chicken burrito for beautiful Brooklyn Decker. The act lands him in the Navy … triggering Berg’s story. Too bad that means Kitsch couldn’t rock Cage’s wispy Con Air hair.
2) The Top Gun volleyball scene.
A gratuitous excuse for sweaty beefcake dropped in the middle of a fighter-pilot thriller. The beach volleyball scene was Tony Scott saying, “Ladies, I know your boyfriend dragged you to this. Here. Shirtless Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. You’re welcome.” In Battleship, the unnecessary sporting event is a soccer match on the Hawaiian base. It means nothing to the overall film, but the teenage girls sitting behind me in our screening giggled at sweaty Kitsch like my wife still does when she hears Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys.”
3) The Independence Day alien punch.
It might be the moment where Will Smith went from recognizable actor to mega-super-duper movie star. In Roland Emmerich’s ID4 -- which essentially is the grandfather to Berg’s Battleship -- Smith eludes an alien spacecraft, forces this fast ship to crash, then tears the hatch on the craft open, punches the alien, and barks, “Welcome to Earth.” A similar battle ensues in the patriotic Battleship, only it’s a wounded Naval veteran boxing an alien. And when he connects a fight-stopping roundhouse, Berg slows his camera speed so the audience can thrill at the sight of four alien teeth getting knocked out. Welcome to Earth, indeed.
4) The Transformers skyscraper collapse.
Granted, Berg likely was working on the Battleship special effects long before Bay released last summer’s Dark of the Moon. But shots of a broken spaceship raining down on Japan and decimating skyscrapers called to mind the similar destruction re-enacted at the end of Bay’s Transformers sequel. Admittedly, there are only so many different ways you can show technologically advanced space creatures tearing down one of our planet’s tall buildings. But as one tower sliced in half and fell in on itself, I couldn’t help but think of Transformers 3 … and that’s not a good thing.
5) The Armageddon walk.
Speaking of Bay, one of his most recognizable shots makes its way into Berg’s Battleship. It's known as the Armageddon walk, and it occurs every time a full cast walks side-by-side toward destiny, preferably in slow-motion and, if John Woo is directing, with doves flying behind them. (Others call it the Reservoir Dogs walk. To-May-to, to-Mah-to, if you ask me.) Berg employs the signature strut with a band of senior citizens slo-mo walking across the once-defunct Missouri to solicit applause from a mainstream crowd. These veterans aren’t trying to split an asteroid in half, but their actions do ultimately save our planet, and for that, we’re forever grateful.