Makes your average Jerry Bruckheimer movie look like Ingmar Bergman. At least this year’s other Taylor Kitsch failure had some ambition. Universal’s latest attempt to aim for broader audience appeal than the more adult-skewed misfires of recent history is relentlessly dumb and absolutely no fun. The price tag was reportedly in John Carter territory, but but nothing onscreen impresses because it’s so derivative. The effects are sub-Transformers “huh” level, the music’s a shameless rip-off of Tron Legacy and the script never breaks out of primary school doodling (it takes as its template all things Bruckheimer, but – backhanded compliment – with none of the honed button pushing skills he brings to his films). I suppose unleashing Rihanna upon the world of acting represents some approximation of aiming high, particularly in as unlikely a role as this.
What’s most incredulous, and disturbing, about the film is that it believes it has something serious to say, a paean to “our” (America’s) brave soldiers. Peter Berg debuted with a tediously misanthropic stinker masquerading as a black comedy (Very Bad Things) and since then his directorial career has been patchy at best. He’s made a couple of films that suggest he has an interest in in material with something of a brain (Hancock, Friday Night Lights). But he also directed the lousy Jamie Foxx-leads-a-crack-commando-team-of-Hollywood-stars-against-the-“towelheads” The Kingdom, unblinking in its support of the War on Terror. With this, and his upcoming Lone Survivor, one has to wonder if he’s just a shill for the US military. Then there’s his interview with an Israeli reporter, telling the guy to join up and defend his country, or rather, attack Iran (to be fair, Berg doesn’t seem fully… present during the interview).
Here, he introduces the subplot of limbless veterans quite early on (one of whom, an actual Iraq vet, having extolled “I’m half a man and half a man ain’t enough to be a soldier” cheers up by the end having discovered he can kill just as well as a fully-abled grunt). Later, when it falls to the ageing USS Missouri as the last defence against the alien threat, Berg lumbers out some WWII vets; these guys still have it! And we owe them so much! There’s much whooping and cheering whenever the mighty servicemen score a hit. The film is even generous enough to make a concession to foreigners (it’s a global menace, after all – so may as well be a substitute for the Middle East) with teaming up with the Japanese (see, Americans don’t hold grudges). This isn’t even so bad it’s funny; the whole film is almost studiedly banal, lethargically risible. Usually in such fare we can be confident of a knowing performance or two from one of the supporting cast. But Liam Neeson’s the only old pro here, and he isn’t known for his wry wit. Truly terrible.