Tuesday, 31 July 2012

AMERICAN WARSHIPS DVD review

Yes, the review you've all been waiting for is finally here. American Warships/Battleships/the latest Asylum mockbuster is now out on DVD. But is it any good and how does it compare to its bigger, stronger cousin, Peter Berg's Battleship?



The good people at The Asylum must have thought they were onto a winner. They've been peddling straight to DVD/Syfy "mockbusters" for years and no-one's ever felt the need to ask them to stop, so sure they were that this little independent outfit were never going to be able to put a dent in the surefire success of their huge, big budget epics.


Maybe it was for marketing purposes or maybe it was out of genuine concern about them getting away with it for so long, but when The Asylum announced their title Battleships (later American Battleship), someone at Universal decided that enough was enough and sent them a cease and desist letter. Sure enough, The Asylum backed down and took the word battleship out of their title altogether, opting for the much less lawsuit-y American Warships. The battle may have avoided the courts, but now both films have been released to audiences the real question is... which one is the better film?

I wasn't a fan of Peter Berg's Battleship, to the point where I didn't bother writing a review for it in fear of getting myself all angry about how stupidly boring it all was. Still, I'll admit to being a little bit curious about whether The Asylum had managed to make a better film from the source material (it's based on a board game, don't ya know), as despite hating 99.9% of their output, I'm a sucker for a good underdog story.


Written and directed by a man named Thunder Levin, recipient of the greatest piece of IMDb trivia I've ever read, American Warships is not a good film. But it's not an outright terrible film either, something that I'd almost taken as a given for anything with The Asylum's name on it. Starting with the self explanatory blurb "According to the department of defense what you are about to see never actually happened", we find ourselves aboard the USS Iowa, about to be decommissioned and turned into a floating museum of naval history.

Captained by Mario Van Peebles (hiding his sense of shame well), the big boat gets caught up in an intergalactic war with a bunch of aliens who don't have the common sense to land a bit closer to the shore. On board includes a bunch of Navy Seals with the annoying habit of grunting "hooyah!" after everything they say, and not doing much except stand around waiting to be fodder for alien laser beams. Also on board are a couple of feisty 'ladies', who are written as such girl power stereotypes they seem to be existing in their own unconfirmed lesbian love affair sub-plot.


Creating an awful lot of build up for very little confrontation, it's halfway through before the aliens are introduced. The first half sees the crew assuming they're headed into a war with North Korea, leading to the immortal line, "Korean my ass, that's a damn Martian!".

With poor audio, quiet dialogue and loud 'action', Carl Weathers speaks in such a low register that it's often tough to understand what he's saying. Weathers must have filmed his scenes in the space of one afternoon, as despite his marquee billing, he's not in it very much. His Pentagon based official takes the place of Liam Neeson's shouty General, when he chooses to be audible getting to deliver lines of the quality of "let's hope you're right son, because the fate of the entire world depends on it".

Not at all to do with budgetary limitations, but the enemy ship has a cloaking device which it uses... a lot. Of course this leads to MVP and his crew firing blindly at random coordinates, hoping to hit something. In what should be the film's selling point, we get re-used special effects shots and some hilariously bad nighttime Navy Seal action.


If there's one part of American Warships to be commended, it's that Mario Van Peebles is admirably game to give the role his all. No stranger to low budget filmmaking (his work as an actor and director has rarely attracted the attention on the Hollywood maninstream), he's easily the best thing about this rather poor movie, relishing the opportunity to deliver the playful line "you're not going to sink my battleship", a line that was sorely missing from Peter Berg's big budgeter.


Less Taylor Kitsch, just kitsch. With a budget comparable to the cost of Liam Neeson's trailer, apart from the lack of special effects the story isn't that much worse than Battleship. The short answer to the question of which film is better; Battleship. But there's no denying that there is a low budget, low-art charm to American Warships. By comparing the two films a couple of things becomes apparent; The Asylum are pretty good at knocking out a carbon copy film after seeing just the trailer and deserve some form of respect for doing it so blatantly; and that making a movie based on a board game was a pretty stupid idea in the first place.


Verdict




Special Features:
+ Scene Selection

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