Monday, April 30, 2012

Battleship (2012) movie review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Clear directing and camerawork, awesome special effects, intense action, good sense of humor, heartfelt underlying message, managed to incorporate recognisable elements of the board game

The Bad: "B" movie style plot, little character development, cliche ridden, lacks epic scale of previous alien invasion movies.

You know those "Megashark" and "Supergator" shows that involve some naval vessel against an unstoppable giant threat to mankind? Battleship would have been like that. Even Steve Jablonsky's score sounds closer to his horror movie work in Friday the 13th and less like a blockbuster like Transformers. Seriously? A movie based on a board game? No story exists so the producers decide to rip off a syfy made-for-tv plot. And this is exactly what this could have been without it's financial backing, director Peter Berg's vision and an honest sense of humor about its source material.

In past movies, large scale Alien invasions have always fought on land (Battle Los Angeles) or in the air (Skyline). Now "Battleship" takes the familiar alien invasion scenario to the sea. The mandatory excuse of a story sees slacker Alex Hopper "drafted" into the navy by his brother after a disastrous attempt at wooing some girl. Turns out the girl is the daughter of Vice Admiral Shane! Hopper decides to enroll in the navy along side his brother. Fast forward a few years to 2012 and the annual "RIMPAC" joint naval exercise. Alex picks this time to try and ask the Admiral for his daughter's hand in marriage but winds up in a brawl with a Japanese Captain and on the verge of being dishonorably discharged from service. Not to mention earning the eternal hatred of the Admiral. Life could not get any worse, UNTIL ALIENS ATTACK! Four gargantuan ships, drawn by a powerful relay signal, crash into the waters near Oahu and proceed to deploy an impenetrable shield around the area. Only three ships are caught within the shield and thus able to help the trapped island. One of those ships happens to be captained by Stone Hopper with Alex Hopper as tactical officer. There is something on the island that the aliens are after. Standing between them and their goals is the crew of three naval warships. Let the battle commence!
Yes this is not a very thinking heavy movie. It is all humor, badass one-liners, eye candy and explosive thrills which manages to bring in some subtle drama. For Stone Hopper, it is a simple tale of a boy becoming a man and accepting great responsibility in the face of great adversity. Now Those expecting something on the scale of "Independence Day" would be sorely disappointed. The trailer made it seem as if the entire combined fleet would go up against an alien armada. There is a reason why the title is "Battleship"(singular) and not "BattleshipS" or "Battle Fleet". But If it is one thing the movie manages to capture, it is the sense of fun of playing the game.They even managed to have one very clever scene, involving the uselessness of the ship's onboard radar, that mimics the strategic guessing that one usually uses in the actual board game.

Comparisons to Michael Bay's Transformers are entirely unfounded and unfair because Peter Berg does action A LOT BETTER. His camerwork is clear, keeping the typical shaky cam shots to a minimum. The result is a truly thrilling movie with wanton destruction in all its computer generated glory. Berg also has a better grasp of comedic timing.. He does not stoop to the dirty frat boy humor of Michael Bay, choosing instead to have genuinely funny moments that do not feel forced.To crown it off is an underlying moral concerning a soldier's purpose illustrated through the side character of Col Mick, a double amputee grappling with his inadequacy as a soldier. It is also a tribute to the war veterans as seen in a climatic moment of awesome where old Navy men rise to the occasion and do their part against the aliens. Moral of the story: Soldiers may retire, but their will to defend their country will never die.

So are we looking at the next extraterrestrial based franchise?. The answer is, highly unlikely. Unlike stuff such as Ridley Scott's Alien, Dan OBannon's Predator or even Independence Day, Battleship's Aliens are just not interesting enough. They are your typical "Destroy your world" type of aliens from the 1950s science fiction who look like lizard eyed baboons with porcupine quills for beards. Their suits look like a bad ripoff from the Halo and Bioshock video games and their ships, though powerful, have fatal design flaws (which the protagonists eventually discover and use against them).

Detractors can compare this to an Overblown Navy recruitment video. It sure makes working on a naval vessel seem like the most badass thing in the world. Will it not be surprising to find that navy applicants numbers skyrocket in the days surrounding the film's release? Do not, however, expect realistic tactics or even physics as you see an old museum ship make hairpin turns by quickly sinking an anchor or a Destroyer going from full speed ahead, to a dead stop and full reverse within a matter of seconds. Best let the brain just float away and sink yourself into this highly entertaining summer blockbuster.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you loved movies like Independence Day which glorify the armed forces through a good mix of action, humor and drama.
Avoid it: if you really cannot lie back and just have fun. Seriously. The board game was fun, this is fun. That's all.

Entertainment: A-

Story: B-
Acting: B+

Characters: B
Music: C+
Replay value: B+
"Brains": C+

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens (2012) TV CGI movie review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: Superb voice cast, chemistry and acting. Well written dialogue.

The Bad: Sub standard animation for a movie, overused plot devices, no character development, confusing narrative.


After years of following the adventures of teenage Ben Tennyson through Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, this all-CGI movie takes us back to the Ten Year old Ben Tennyson that animation fans were first introduced to. For the benefit of all, here are the basics. Ten year old Ben Tennyson comes across this alien technology called "The Omnitrix" that allows him to morph into 10 different types of aliens. Together with his grandpa, who is secretly a hi tech defender of earth, and his magic wielding cousin Gwen, Ben Tennyson uses his new gift to take out any evil alien that may threaten mankind.

Over the course of the series, Ben 10 is notable for developing a rich mythos and fictional universe filled with alien technology, extraterrestrial races, almost as diverse as Star Wars. This new movie throws you right into that universe without any form of introduction to anything. So, if you are not a pre-existing Ben 10 fan, be prepared to do a lot of wiki-ing.

However, any good fan would tell you how over-done the plot is. This is not the first time where some mishap causes a recurring glitch in Ben's Omnitrix. This is not the first time where some super powered alien comes after Ben for reasons unknown. Heck, this whole plot seems like a futile follow up to "Secret of the Omnitrix" the previous Ben 10 animated movie (which was in traditional 2D animation and a lot better than this one by the way). So after a whole summer of kicking alien butt, Ben has to go back to school. One night he gets a summons to meet Azmuth, the creator of the omnitrix, and leaves with his ally Tetrax despite being grounded. At the meeting place, they are attacked by a blue "Tokustar" which disappears and an evil Mechamorph warrior ambushes Ben thinking that Ben knows the whereabouts of the mysterious Tokustar.(See what i mean by needing lots of pre-existing knowledge of the Ben 10 Universe?)

Now the mystery element is the main attraction. The show keeps the viewers asking questions until the last moment: Where is Azmuth, who is the mysterious attacker, what is wrong with the omnitrix etc. But the resolution to the story is very anti-climatic. Overall, it lacks the intergalactic scope of "Secret of the Omnitrix" or the novelty of the live action movies (as bad as they were). If it were not for the CGI animation, this movie could have easily been a mid season episode of the original series.

The CGI itself is another problem. The computer animation tries to translate the original anime-styled designs to 3D CGI but with sub-par results. The simples lines and colors that work so well in 2D just seems unimpressive in 3D CGI and downright lazy at times. For example, characters' hair look more like clumps of clay, clothing lack any folds, background buildings and props are hastily rendered with only the most basic of shadings. Sometimes even the mouth movements seem out of sync with dialogue. The designs are great but the actual CGI quality is sadly below mediocre; more fitting for a early 2000s TV series than a 2012 movie. Vehicles, wreckage and the like have a certain weightless feel about them and those fire, water or smoke effects look years behind the times. Just comparing this to the Ben 10: Vilgax attacks PSP video game shows you how lacking this show is in terms of quality.

The movie's only redeeming quality is the voice acting. Tara Strong and the other original voice actors return to the roles that they helped give life to and once again put forth an awesome performance. The chemistry is impeccable; just hearing Ben and Gwen bicker again will bring a smile to any fan's face. More thought seems to have gone into the dialogue script than coming up with a fresh epic story.

It is a valiant move to try and revisit the original Ben 10 but at least try to do it right. The creators could have gotten a more competent animation studio and a "bigger" plot to justify this movie as a movie and not a random episode of the TV series but with crappy animation.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you missed the original 10 year old kid Ben 10 and yearn for that tiny bit of nostalgia
Avoid it: if have an ounce of pride in the franchise and you do not want to see your favorite characters return to the screen in a sub par visual form.

Entertainment: C+
Story: C-
Characters: A
Animation: C-
Art: C+
Music: C-
Voice work: A
Replay Value: B
"Brains": D+