I think I have now been to the cinema more times in the last couple of months than I have in as many years.
But while I went to see John Carter and Wrath of the Titans alone because I was the only person on holiday, I went to see Battleship and The Raid with other people due to these being weekend and evening ventures respectively.
Battleship is ridiculous enough before you’ve seen it (on first sight of the trailer I thought they’d just made a film of Crysis — tropical sci-fi and that forcefield). I don’t remember the old board game, where you guess coordinates to shell the other player’s ships, having anything at all to do with alien invasions or Rihanna. The film might have warships and contain one sequence that replicates the game, but it seems otherwise unrelated. Of all the board games that could inspire a film franchise, is this really a good choice?
Well, if you want to make a super-cheesy feel-good happy-ending (despite the thousands of casualties) film with loads of explosions, I suppose you could do worse than having boats blindly blowing fuck out of each other as a premise.
I think Battleship has been unfairly lambasted by the critics. Yes, it is completely daft, but it seems to be quite happy to revel in that stupidity and go nuts with it. It’s a textbook explosive action film in the truest sense, right down to the transformation of the dead-beat main character into a war hero and the romance sub-plot.
Basically, humanity invites the aliens by sending them a giant laser signal beam at a planet that is calculated to be Earth-like, and they actually come. And not in peace.
Unfortunately, the aliens are massively incompetent, and despite dodging who knows what on their way through interstellar space at faster-than-light speeds, their communications vessel smashes into a human satellite and breaks up. They still have jamming signals that stop the human navy from using their targetting systems, though — huzzah, we must now use manual controls! Go in expecting nothing and just laugh along with it.
We saw the film in the D-Box screen — the one that has a big pod of wobbly seats in the middle. Considering the amount of vibration we were getting sitting nearby in normal seats, and the amount of popcorn that was on the floor as we left, I don’t think we missed anything important.
If you want to see more than 90 minutes of almost non-stop punching and tightly-choreographed beat-downs, then The Raid is probably for you. After the particularly brutal final-boss fight scene, which itself lasted at least ten unbroken minutes (if not more), when the final blow was struck and the villain died at last the audience breathed a collective sigh of relief — there was even a smattering of applause.
Very light on story, very heavy on the man-to-man combat, The Raid makes a great constrast to Battleship — the latter exploding in a ridiculous rollercoaster ride, the former glowering darkly and serious, glorying in gritty violence. The two are absolute polar opposites of the “action” genre, proving there is very much grey area and room to maneouvre in the most supposedly depthless area of cinema.
Sure, the film’s about twenty-odd armed police trying to subdue an entire tower block of reprobates (with the odd nice guy thrown in, natch), but as with any action film the body-count soon whittles all the goons down to a few key figures who duke it out in a battle of wits… and fists and feet.
The tower block setup seems almost like a computer game scenario (each level going higher getting more difficult; at one point somebody asks how to find the Big Bad, when it should surely be obvious he’s on the top floor), and the nigh-endless floods of criminal scum that get slammed certainly do nothing to discourage any one-maverick-hero-player-is-king ideas you might get.
But really, punching. Lots and lots of punching, and the odd kick. No cheese, no superfluous dialogue — just punching.