Saturday, June 2, 2012

Suggestions To Improve "Battleship" (SPOILERS)

Since I don't like criticizing without offering helpful suggestions, here's something for Battleship.

Many critics have pointed out that Liam Neeson, who plays Admiral Shane, does not do a whole lot in the movie.  One of the few scenes he has in the middle of the film is when most of the fleet is trapped outside of the Hawaiian Islands by the aliens' energy field.  It does not appear they're doing very much to try to break through.  There's a federal VIP (Secretary of Defense?) who is pushing Shane to try to probe the field, and after being pestered about it one too many times, Shane tells him he'll order another plane at the shield when the VIP is co-piloting it.

(This is based on a real incident when a Clinton Administration official suggested to General Hugh Shelton that the U.S. could allow an aircraft to be shot down over Iraq in order to have the pretext for war.  Shelton got really angry and said he'd order the mission when the person who made the suggestion--they're not named--was trained to fly it.  That shut them up real fast.)

Although the force field took an aircraft flying into it without being overly affected, it doesn't seem like anyone made any effort to break it afterward.  Given the amount of firepower a carrier battle group has at its command, one doesn't necessarily have to risk the lives of pilots to do this.

While Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and company are busy fighting the alien invaders inside the energy field, Shane could pull the fleet back and try to breach the field by firing on it with the conventional missiles the fleet's aircraft and missile boats carry.  If that fails to breach the force field, Shane could then request permission to use nuclear weapons.

Given how close the fleet was to the force field--the three destroyers leading the group were cut off when the shield went up--the fleet would need to pull back even farther before even a tactical nuclear device could be used.  And tactical weapons are relatively small as far as nukes go.  The W70 variable-yield bomb could go as high as 100 kilotons, over five times higher than the Hiroshima bomb, while the Tsar Bomba was 50 megatons, 1,400 times the combined destructive force of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs and around a quarter of the explosive force of the Krakatoa volcano.

(Since I assume the force field works by dissipating kinetic force all over the entire surface much like how a bulletproof vest does, and the force field is large enough to enclose the entire Hawaiian chain, it would take some serious nuclear firepower to breach it.)

So we cut between Hopper and his destroyer playing cat-and-mouse with the alien invaders inside the force field and Shane pulling the fleet back a safe distance before he begins nuclear bombardment of the energy field.  Just when the nukes are about to fly, Hopper and the U.S.S. Missouri manage to destroy the emitters on the alien flagship and the force field collapses.

Given how the general public irrationally fears nuclear energy and nuclear weapons (I've seen people suggest using a dozen WWII-era nuclear weapons could cause a nuclear winter when you'd need many, many more powerful modern devices to even get that in theory), this could be a means of building suspense.

It could also get more out of Liam Neeson.  We could see him agonizing about the use of nuclear weapons and perhaps even flashing back to the death of a relative from cancer as a result of exposure to nuclear testing or being part of the American force occupying Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings.  If he's an admiral now, he might be a Vietnam veteran, which would mean his father and uncles would be the right age to be WWII veterans or in the military in the early Cold War, when radiation dangers were not as well-known.

(It would need to be made clear that even if a hole were blown in the force shield, the fleet would need to rush through the blast zone, where the radiation is most severe, in order to have a chance of getting through before the aliens seal the breach.  Thus there's great risk of radiation exposure to the crew.)


  1. I still don't think that would have saved the film. Have the entire fleet trapped inside and make Laim Neeson into an Admiral Adama like figure, maybe. Fixing some of the stupid military and tactical errors would help too, as would making Kitch's charachter more likable.

  2. I have a problem with the premise in general. The US Navy has not had a battleship in commission since the early 90s. So the use of battleships is moot.

    How to save the film? How about the largest battle between battleships in history. The Battle of Jutland? That would have been a much more interesting film.

    "Battleship" was just a Hollywood cash in. "Hur hur, aliens." Give me a break.


  3. They actually came up with some pretty interesting ways to have the battle with the aliens resemble a game of "Battleship" and actually bringing a real battleship into the fight.

    (Just because the ship is not in commission doesn't mean it's not there. Of course, that leads to its own set of problems.)

    Jutland *would* make an interesting movie. If you wanted to be particularly Anglophobic, you could depict the British blockade of Germany causing mass starvation and the heroic German attempt to break it. Downer Ending when they fail.

    Of course, with foreign movie sales being such a big deal, making a movie negatively depicting another country is a commercial no-go. "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" was banned in India, which is a much bigger deal now than it was 20-odd years ago.

    That's why aliens (there aren't any, so far) or Nazis (nobody will ever sympathize with them) are such popular villains.