Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Battleship and Black and Blue Reviews

Sometimes after a long week of teaching direct objects, nuances of symbolism, and grading ceaseless stacks of papers I need to unwind.  Discovering chocolate is a downfall to dieting, and being a longtime teetotaler,  I have succumbed to the ACTION movie for unwinding on Friday night.  We have a local grocery store that offers new releases for only a buck on the weekends.  Who can resist?

I am prone to choosing action movies with disasters or aliens, and I can’t resist the Navy.  So it was natural I selected Battleship. Expecting major cheese for ninety minutes I found myself rooting and hooting for the entire movie.  Being a movie trivia addict, I Googled up IMDb.  Glancing through the reviews I couldn’t help but wince at the meanness of many of the comments.

This brings me to the subject of Black and Blue Reviews.

These are reviews that involve slicing and dicing of the given subject, be it a book, a movie, restaurant or product.  Having been a reviewer for various journals over the past twelve years I have developed a philosophy: it is much easier to depreciate than it is to create.  We all know how much easier it is to diss and dismiss than it is to praise and raise. And being a published writer I tend to stem the critical ink flow when it comes to someone else’s creative effort because I know the stings of criticism do sting. As Thumper once said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Or least compromise and try to say two things for every bad.

Back to Battleship. Of course it wasn’t going for Academy Award status; it’s intent is action and it delivered.  How could you not like a movie that:

  • features Liam Neeson as a Navy admiral?
  • is filmed in Hawaii?
  • has aliens who wear helmet sunglasses and sport wicked porcupine goatees?
  • debuts Rihanna as a  sailor who holds her own with the big boys?
  • stars Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgård?
  • also has Japanese legendary actor Tadanobu Asano?
  • laughs at itself with borrowed kitsch from Jurassic Park and Transformers?

Instead I found most reviews were negative.  Here’s some samplings:

Of course, in the old B-movie tradition, our response to the alien visit is immediately military. There’s not one word of discussion about the aliens possibly just making a social call. We invite them, they come and we open fire. This despite the fact that they’re remarkably humanoid; when we finally remove the helmet from one alien’s spacesuit, he turns out to look alarmingly like James CarvilleRoger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times

Alien invasion movies usually work based on three things: strong characters, cool aliens and a good idea. “Battleship” has boring characters, boring aliens and a couple of minor ideas stupid enough to elicit a temporary smile. Jeffrey Anderson, San Francisco Examiner

Those represent the pro-view.  Here are a couple of IMDb user review comments:

A simple way to describe Battleship, is that it’s basically a $200 million naval recruitment video that was made by a schizophrenic 8 year old who likes video games and things going Ka-Boom.

Turning a board game into a big-budget summer blockbuster was always going to be a stretch. But Hasbro the company behind the cinematic juggernaut Transformers series thought they had locked on to a winning formula for their adaptation of their best-selling board-game Battleship…namely ditch Michael Bay for the supremely talented Peter Berg, add aliens and throw shed-loads of money at the screen. And it almost works…

Ouch. What were this people expecting from a summer movie?  Hamlet on Mars? Sheesh…

These people totally missed how the film did something totally remarkable by:

  • having Japanese and American military forces  collaborate at Pearl Harbor, no less
  • featuring real life vets of the USS Missouri, some who had even served in WWII
  • showcasing real life active duty Army Colonel Gregory Gadson., who is the first bilateral amputee to serve as a Garrison Commander to any post in the United States Army. This man is a war hero.
  • honoring the military, particularly those from our past.

Sadly, I didn’t see anyone impressed with these positive attributes.  They were too busy complaining about how a movie could be made based off of a toy.  Oh yeah, it’s much better to make movies inspired off of a Disney ride.  Then it’ll be taken more seriously.

Don’t let the black and blue review sink your enjoyment of Battleship.  Besides, the chicken burrito scene is worth the watching all in itself.


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