Thursday, May 31, 2012

Damn the plot! Full speed ahead!

Last Saturday, with Memorial Day looming, I was feeling a bit patriotic. So when a good friend asked if I wanted to see Battleship, I said yes.

I know, I know. Watching a movie based on a board game isn't exactly the most appropriate gesture considering the many sacrifices of our service men and women. Believe me, if I had enough gas money, I would have gone to Willamette National Cemetery (it's a two hour drive, round trip) and placed flowers on my Grandparents' grave.

Anyway, I was curious about the film. How do you take a classic board game and turn it into a movie? It could be fantastic. Hollywood did that to Clue and (in my slightly biased opinion) it's one of the best movies of all time! But on the other hand, it could suck like a Hoover. So to play it safe I kept my expectations low. If all else failed, the explosions would keep it from being a total waste of time.

It turned out I was right on both counts.

The explosions were everything I wanted them to be. They were big, loud, and plentiful. It was glorious!

The plot....well, lets just say that I'm still trying to find it. I'm convinced that the writers are either schizophrenic, really really indecisive, or under a lot of pressure from the studio to write a blockbuster. I highly suspect it was the latter.

This movie suffered from an identity crisis. It was a mish mash of scenes borrowed from other popular movies. It was as if they were trying to make a screwball comedy, then a Top Gun-esque military flick, and after that it was Predator, Independence Day, Contact, Saving Private Ryan, and oh yeah, we have to put the board game in there somewhere, and while we're at it we should put a real vet in the movie since Act of Valor made that a thing...

The writers were so busy trying to create a blockbuster that would impress everybody, that they forgot what their real job was: To write a good story.

Notice I said a good story, as in a single good story. You can't create a good story out of seven good stories.

Think of it as a jigsaw puzzle.  If you took the pieces of seven different puzzles, mixed them all together, and picked out a random 100 pieces, there is absolutely no way you could put them together into a cohesive whole. It's impossible. You can't focus on one idea long enough to fully develop it. Plus, while you're jumping around from idea to idea, some vital details are left behind. Did you notice that they never explained why the aliens were here and what they were after? They explained how they found Earth and why they needed the satellites to phone home, but their true reason for coming was never adequately dealt with. I'm not even going to start talking about the many inaccuracies (both military and scientific) that a little research would have taken care of. That's a blog for another week.

So, you remember the plot problem I mentioned in my last blog? The one I was having with my short story? I was having the same problem as the writers of Battleship. My story had too many cool ideas. So many, that the real story was getting lost. I was also letting the pressure of impressing the editor(s) get to me. Thankfully, I discovered the fault in time to correct it. I had to scrap half of what I wrote, but it'll be worth it in the end because now I have the proper focus.

I can do my job. I can write a good story.

It's too bad it's too late for the writers of Battleship to do the same.


  1. but... a hoover is supposed to suck so if a movie is doing its job as well as a vacuum made by hoover does its job then doesn't that make the movie good?
    I liked how they integrated the board game into the movie with that scene where they used the tsunami warning buoys to target the aliens with missiles.

  2. The board game integration was really good and the battle sequence in the last half was really good as well (if you ignore the fact that they didn't follow protocol). As I said in the blog, I reallly liked the movie, I just would have liked it more if there had been better storytelling.