Battleship: What Went Wrong?

mza_2037853248108998893Normally I write about finance-related subjects, but even bankers go home at the end of the day and do something fun.  And the movie Battleship has been irritating me for a while. I actually liked the movie -unlike, apparently, a lot of people. So I’m not completely off the financial topic, I’ll say that it was considered one of last year’s unmitigated financial Hollywood disasters. But why?

We can go into an analysis of the overuse of the template script, or maybe speculate on the Taylor Kitsch curse (I also happened to like John Carter). But I wanted to address the issue of the story; and a movie, regardless of its actual entertainment value, tells a story.

Here’s the thing: Aside from all the technical aspects that you could mention, the reason Battleship did not work out in the box office is because it’s about the wrong person.

Meet Captian Yugi Nagata.

Battleship-Tadanobu-Asano-as-Captain-Yugi-Nagata

Let’s look at the movie from his perspective:

He’s a decorated officer in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. We can imagine that by the time he’s promoted to Captain and put in command of his own destroyer, he has a wife and family who live near the naval base he’s stationed at. Because he’s such an exemplary officer, he’s selected for a very important assignment: represent his country in the Pacific Rim Naval War Games, where he and his crew will be working and competing with the most powerful navies stationed in the Pacific.

It’s not just important for him personally to discharge his office with honor -honor is, after all, a very important part of Japanese culture, and especially within the armed forces. He will be facing and working alongside the United States Navy, the largest in the world -and the nation that defeated his during WWII. In fact, he will be returning to the exact spot where the conflict between the US and Japan started: Pearl Harbor,

He must be on top of his game, because the JMSDF is tiny and under-powered in comparison to the Americans. He has to put on a good face in front of the Goliath, an enemy now turned friend. And in the middle of that, he butts up against this hot-rod, callous, ego-driven US lieutenant who cares more about himself than his crew, and less for respecting the Sea.

Naturally the two will hit it off on the wrong foot, but they are forced to cooperate when they are dispatched to investigate a strange phenomenon and are quickly cut off from their support vessels. This is where things get really interesting, because the hot-rod American Lieutenant -Hopper- manages to antagonize what quickly becomes apparent are aliens with superior technology.

This is why you don't shoot first and ask questions later.

This is why you don’t shoot first and ask questions later.

When all but one of their ships are quickly destroyed, the two personal enemies have to work out their differences and stand up to this menace. Captain Nagata is forced to abandon his ship, but can’t leave his crew behind; and has to deal with the complicated relationship of his own country with the US while balancing it off the personal issues he has with Lieutenant Hopper. To make matters even more tense and complicated, Nagata outranks and is more experienced than the Lieutenant -but Hopper is nominally in charge because it’s a US vessel.

How and will they put their differences aside before the aliens are able to achieve their objectives? With the fate of the world in the balance, Captain Nagata will have to use all of his experience, both as a seaman and commander, to leverage the minimal resources at his disposal to not only save himself, his crew and the Americans, but also the rest of the world who remain out of contact.

Now that is a movie I’d watch; and not only enjoy for the excellent combination of visuals and music. In fact, if you watch the same movie but from Captain Nagata’s point of view, it’s more than just enjoyable: it’s actually really good!

The most interesting character in the movie is not on the poster.

The most interesting character in the movie is not on the poster.

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