Saturday, April 21, 2012

Battleship and Contact: Two Movies You Didn’t Think I’d Review, But I Did.

Battleship and Contact


You’re probably wondering what in the hell a movie like Battleship is doing on a feminist review, “Did she not watch the trailer?!” you shout in exasperation at your computer screen. Yes. Yes I did see the trailer and I noticed one overwhelming piece of information: Alexander Skarsgard was in it. I’m sorry for the piece of objectification I’m going to do right now, but that man could be on infomercials selling blenders and I would buy the season DVD. So you see, when I saw the trailer, my eyes completely skipped over the absurd reliance on a board game for a plot, the obvious cliché’s in the bad-boy-turned-leader, and the melodramatic dialogue—I was going to see Alexander Skarsgard in a Navy uniform.

Now, I clearly entered this movie with absolutely NO expectations other than watching the world’s sexiest man parade around on a screen larger than a house, hence I found myself pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of three underrepresented groups of people, to whit….

One, Rhianna as the tough-girl, token female in a military movie. For the most part, Rhianna’s role is exactly what you expect it will be, short hair, attitude, loves guns, always threatening to beat up someone else and so on. What I did find interesting about the character however, was that not once did anyone ever say anything about her being girl. The fact that she was female was never addressed, discussed or even vaguely mentioned, she was just a soldier and she was good at what she did.

I thought it was nice that her gender was never an issue, all that was an issue was the aliens attacking earth (as it should be in that situation). So despite not being mind-blowing, it was, at least, an original handling of fairly over-played stereotype that brings up a good point, gender differences shouldn’t have to be pointed out all the time, sometimes, people just do their jobs well. (Incidentally, while it’s very nice that we got our token one-woman per military drama, now that the formula has been done for a while, could we maybe up it to two women per military drama?)

Two, the unexpected inclusion of an injured and recovering soldier. In most military movies, the men are big, strong, virile, and have four functioning limbs; when a character is injured, they are quickly shunted off in a helicopter to accompanying sad music and everyone is sad for a little while, but then it’s business as usual. The very real story of what happens to these men after a serious injury is rarely addressed.

In Battleship however, we meet a big Army man in a rehabilitation center, learning to walk again with the use of prosthetics after he’s lost both of his legs. In addition to the obvious physical challenges he faces, the movie touches on his feelings of worthlessness, loss of purpose, and hopelessness; however, he becomes an unlikely action hero himself when he leads his own missions to save the world. While we only get one such character in the film, that’s still one nod to those often excluded.

Third, geriatric action heroes: they do exist. The third group of unlikely characters in this film is several elderly veterans who are brought out of retirement to literally man a battleship. Again, action heroes are usually big, strong, virile, and young. Now don’t get all technical on me and start spouting off about Bruce Willis and Liam Neesen being all bad-ass in their middle age, cause you’re right, they’re still kicking ass and taking names and all that; however, those guys are middle-aged, not elderly. These guys were elderly.

Cool, no? They swore, pulled triggers and lobbed bombs, all without taking their shirts off as most other action heroes must do at some point in the movie.

So despite it’s cliché’s, over-dramatic dialogue and ear-splitting explosions, the movie was better than I expected, in that it did try to operate, at least minimally, outside of the general Hollywood formula. That and it did have a great soundtrack (I love AC/DC).

However, perhaps I should warn you, I really did basically tell you all the good parts of the film, so if you decided not to see it, you’d probably still be ok….and that’d leave more Alexander for me.


You’ve probably seen this movie on TNT at two in the morning at some point in your life, or watched it with your families 16 years ago when it first came out, but have you seen it since? I had seen it, but again, 16 years ago, so I rented it online (sort of) and rediscovered why I think this movie has a lot to offer, and not just to feminists (though you should all be feminists by now, you know).

In case you don’t remember the plot, here’s a little review for you: Jodie Foster is a young, brilliant astronomer who listens for Extra-terrestrial life and of course, discovers it one day. This unleashes a storm of media, government, fear, distrust, and plans for a transportation device sent over by the aliens. She wants nothing more than to be the person strapped into that transportation thing, but has to battle bureaucracy and sexism to get there. Despite how it sounds, one of the things that I love about this movie is that aliens actually play a very small role in the film; mostly this film is about humanity in times of crisis.

One of the reasons that I think this movie is great for feminists is that Jodie Foster is intelligent and driven. The focus of the movie is not on how she looks, ninety percent of the movie has her in jeans and a t-shirt with a messy ponytail. While there is a side-plot of a relationship with Matthew McConaughey, it’s never the core of the film; the crux of the movie is the point where she encounters and believes in something greater than herself.

The film also passes the feminist test, in that two women, with names, talk about something other than a man for more than thirty seconds. While the majority of the characters are still male, (which is understandable in some facets since most of politics and science are still dominated by men) the main staffer at the White House is a woman, and she too plays a strong role in the development of the plot.

For me, the greatest point of this movie is how it shows a female protagonist dedicated to scientific discovery and the fulfillment of her dreams. Often when women are portrayed as ambitious and career-oriented, they are simultaneously shown as cold, evil, and downright heartless (think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada), in Contact however, Foster is genuine and polite to the people around her (much like successful women really are).

The movie also offers a discussion of science versus religion and whether the two can coexist, or maybe even have quite a bit in common; I think it’s a great addition to the film, in that it is a constant ongoing discussion in our society, and would surely be discussed in the event of aliens.

So there you have it, two unexpected movies to think about today.

What are some movies you would recommend for this week?

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