DVD Review: Battleship

Out on DVD this week we have Battleship starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson and, unfortunately, Rihanna.

The film starts reasonably enough with Kitsch playing Alex Hopper – a reckless and irresponsible youth whose wild ways consistently disappoint his brother Stone (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård), a respected officer in the US Navy.

Shortly after giving his brother an ultimatum, Stone finds his brother committing a totally unneccessary burrito-related felony and offers him a life at sea as an alternative to prison. Finding that the US Navy life agrees with him, Alex resolves to turn his life around, both to please his brother and impress his girlfriend’s father (Liam Neeson).

At much the same time, scientists have been sending transmissions to a newly discovered planet in the hope that its inhabitants might be friendly. They’re not.

And quicker than you can say Independence Day, Battleship goes from being a mediocre movie, to downright incomprehensible drivel.

If they had stuck to a basic plot, with one or two offshoots, they might just have been on to something… but the whole thing is weighed down by totally unnecessary sub-plots. We have the unrealistic love story and the short-lived sibling conflict, but that’s just the tip of the narrative iceberg. We also get Japanese-American hostilities between Hopper and Nagata, a group of grizzled war veterans taking one last shot at glory, and a bizarre sub-story in which a double amputee teams up with a physical therapist to do battle with aliens in a forest…

At times it almost feels like director Peter Berg – whose previous credits include Hancock, The Kingdom, and Friday Night Lights – is out to satirize the genre, sending up the work of Michael Bay rather than aping it, but the film is played with such po-faced stoicism and flag-waving jingoism that this theory has to be rejected.

Instead, the sub-plots mount and mount so that come the finale, the film threatens to collapse under the weight of its many tangents, and it’s a testament to Berg’s skills as a director that he reins proceedings in for the final few scenes… though even he can’t make the sight of two ships firing at each other particularly interesting.

Those with a fetish for weapons and hardware will doubtless enjoy proceedings to some extent, but if plot logic and character development are what you’re after, you may want to give Battleship a miss.

DVD Review: The Grey

Hitting the shelves of DVD outlets nationwide as of May 22, The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, is definitely one to pick up.

In the flick, Neeson plays brooding oil-rig worker John Ottway. We learn that most of the workers in this remote environment are ex-cons, which is apparently where Ottway ‘belongs’. The last day ‘on the job’, so to speak, the oil-rig roughnecks board an airplane that goes through extreme turbulence and crashes somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness.

After the initial shock wears off, Neeson takes charge of the seven survivors in a bid to escape the cold, the hunger and a pack of vicious wolves and return to civilisation. What follows is a heartwrentching struggle for survival against all odds.

The men soon realise that nature has no pity and no forgiveness and much of the drama lies in the interaction between survivors. The film remains tense throughout and some of the wolf scenes are nothing short of chair-gripping. The wolves themselves look extremely realistic if not a little Twilight-y but it is a bit hard to believe that Neesons character knows as much as he does about the everyday habits of a wolf-pack.

Never-the-less, the film is emotional, action-fuelled and darkly poetic. Surprisingly enough, it also makes one hell of a statement about religious beliefs, with Ottway roaring up into the sky at one point demanding a sign that never materializes.

The ending is also one of the finest I’ve seen, with an important piece of information being relayed to us in the final few moments. If you see nothing else this month, pick up a copy of The Grey. But don’t forget the tissues, because this one will have you blubbering like a schoolgirl by the end.

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