“What’s worse is that Battleship is not so bad that it’s entertaining,” says FSR’s Cole Abaius in a 4.12 review. “It never crosses that threshold, content to simply be bad and to somehow make Pearl Harbor and Transformers look like they were directed by a Rhodes Scholar that can bench 550.
“It’s unimaginable that the man who wrote the outstanding pilot to Friday Night Lights” — i.e., Battleship director Peter Berg — “would get within ten feet of this garbage, but there’s his name, right there under the words ‘From Hasbro, the company that brought you Transformers.”
It’s become almost common for film critics to express open-mouthed astonishment at the level of badness in a given film, or in a string of films. The critic gets up from his or her seat and goes to the window and opens it and shouts “aaahh!” And then says to no one in particular, “I thought I knew what it was for films to be superb and good and mediocre and bad and terrible. I thought I knew the relative meaning of these terms! But this…this film has leap-frogged over awful. It goes beyond comical, beyond ludicrous, beyond numbness. It is madness itself. It has caused me sacrifice an aspect of my own sanity.”
I remember reading an Andrew Sarris lament in one of his Village Voice reviews from the early ’80s: “The bottom has fallen out of badness in movies.” But the lack of art or craft or even competency that Sarris was alluding to became a kind of norm for people in the ’80s, and a new norm was semi-established. But then the bottom fell out of that standard, generationally-speaking or perspective-wise or what-have-you, and then a bit more and a bit more. And now we’re down to even lower forms of video-game crap like Battleship, and once you realize or accept that not just film culture but culture itself is devolving and dumbing-down and downswirling on a constant basis, you ask yourself “how can it get any worse?” And then it does. This is our pain, our trial, our gloom. The syndrome is not going to turn around and repair itself.