Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
I like me a cheeseburger.
I don’t mean a fancy-schmancy, Hollywood or New York turkey burger with avocado and truffles and all that garbage, but a right-off-the grill, make-it-in-your-backyard, 100-percent beef with a slab of cheddar cheeseburger. It doesn’t have to be creative, it doesn’t have to be unique – it’s just a red-meat treat for a red-blooded man (press play on Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and fire up the flame for seconds, grillmaster). It’s man food, and let all the “Home Improvement” fans grunt an “amen.”
The good ol’, American cheeseburger – it’s simple, and I’ve had it a hundred times, but I’ll have another because it works.
Now, forget all the Hollywood and New York film critics who are raising their pinkies as they pen their condemning reviews of the new film “Battleship.” This isn’t a movie for the artsy-fartsy types who like alfalfa sprouts on their burgers; it isn’t creative, unique or even particularly clever.
“Battleship” is like a dozen other alien/action/sci-fi/military films you’ve likely seen, and it’s like them because the formula works. Stuff blows up, the world’s in danger, heroes are made from mice, the characters quip off funny one-liners, the guy gets the girl and when the Battleship gets loosed from the dock to the riffing strains of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the testosterone courses through the theater like gamma rays through the Incredible Hulk.
It’s a red-meat treat for red-blooded men. Hu-ah.
And the fact that it honors American Navy veterans – nay, goes above and beyond to portray them as heroes, from World War II through right up to the present – is just more ammunition for shooting down the critics who are whining about “Battleship.”
Look, you ought to know what to expect. The story of aliens crashing on Earth and a royal clown of a man forced to suddenly discover courage and valor to save our planet isn’t anything new. That he has a supermodel girlfriend who is the daughter of his senior officer – but she sees something more in him, despite his rebel ways – is no novelty. Retelling the story as part of this review isn’t even worth it. You already know it.
And I’ll readily admit the film has its flaws. The script is average. The characters are caricatures (except for the real-life U.S. Army Col. Gregory D. Gadson, a battalion leader who lost both legs in Iraq in 2007 and plays a pivotal role in “Battleship”). There’s also plenty of nagging points that don’t quite make sense, such as why the same five sailors seem to man every station aboard their destroyer.
Nonetheless, “Battleship” does better than many of its look-alike, explosive-ridden summer movies in part because it doesn’t try to be too serious or socially conscious. It focuses instead on special effects, great sound effects, a very pretty picture and a dynamite soundtrack.
Critics can say it’s another “Transformers” or “Armageddon” or pick-an-alien movie all they want, but “Battleship” is an example of how good those kinds of movies can be, even if it isn’t anything more than what those movies are.
And like a good cheeseburger, you want to pick the right condiments to go on top. Jimmy Buffett liked “lettuce and tomatoes, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes.” But it’s also hard to go wrong with the ol’ ketchup, mustard and pickle.
And director Peter Berg goes for the American classic, a generous squirt of patriotism, right on top.
I can’t say too much, or I’ll give away the movie’s climactic (albeit foreseeable) twist, but every sailor and soldier in the film is portrayed as an example of courage and valor – from the men and women sailing today to the wounded veterans trying to put their lives back together after the loss of limbs to the grizzled vets who sailed in wars past. Each is shown to willingly pledge their lives, their duties, their sacred honor to the defense of our nation, and each is given an heroic part to play in “Battleship.”
I can’t say that the film accurately portrays anything about the military – in fact, I doubt it does – but the respect “Battleship” gives to our men and women in uniform is exactly the right sauce to go atop this summer version of an American movie cheeseburger.
“Battleship” contains roughly 40 obscenities and profanities, mostly of the minor variety. The only two “F” words in the film are actually cut off by the action before they’re fully spoken.
The film has surprisingly little sexuality (especially for a movie that casts a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model as the lead love interest), but it does have a few elements. There’s some kissing and flirting, some cleavage and bare leg, but only three scenes are sexually charged. In one, “Samantha” enters a bar in a tight T-shirt, drawing the attention of “Alex.” In another, Alex is bathing in ice cubes and emerges naked (though nothing explicit is seen other than his bare chest and back). In the most graphic scene, Samantha is on the beach in bikini and small, denim shorts, straddled atop her boyfriend. The camera lingers on her body, but there is no sexual activity seen or implied.
Naturally, the film is heavy with violence and gunfire and explosions, but most of it (save for some hand-to-hand combat) is seen from a distance without any portrayal of gore. Though some bleeding and wounded sailors are seen being pulled from the water, most of the deaths happen off-screen.
The movie contains a pair of religious references. The first is simply a statue of Buddha in Hong Kong, the second a bumper sticker of sorts seen briefly on a U.S. ship. It reads “In God we trust, all others we track.”