Yes, I felt a little dirty renting this film. I mean, c’mon, a movie based on the Hasbro game of plastic ships and pegs? But I was actually surprised. This isn’t a bad film (if you ignore certain aspects of the science).
Berg, who’s earliest efforts such as The Rundown felt juvenile and somewhat of a waste, has come a long way. He really took the time he needed to develop characters and relationships in this film. Berg still spent most of his time with explosions and spectacle, but because it had something underneath it, it really became a surprisingly engaging ride.
Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) managed to pull off a relatively believable transformation from idiot to hero. He is well supported by Skarsgård (Melancholia, True Blood), Neeson, and Plemons (Bent, Breaking Bad, and who worked with Kitsch in Friday Night Lights). Even Decker, as his main squeeze, came off rather well. In addition to the acting set, Berg loads the story and the screen with war veterans who, despite the involvement feeling forced and predictable, will make you feel for these people and cheer for them as well. Given that this is basically an action film, that was impressive.
Now, I did mention the science. In part, I did this because the early advertising for the film did. There is a speech at the top about Goldilocks planets. That’s a feint and a bad one at that. The aliens, as interestingly as they are conceived, are not from that identified planet and cannot be unless humans discovered a way to send faster-than-light communications. No matter how powerful the beam they created… it is still bound by the laws of physics (as we know them). Yes, this really, really annoyed me, I’m sorry. There are several aspects that hinge on this communication array, so it really is just bad science fiction. It is like someone measuring time in light years in a book (yes, I came across that recently too).
So squint your way through the science and you’ll have fun with the visuals and action. And while I hang my head in shame a little to admit it, you’ll have much more fun than you think you will. This film shouldn’t have bombed like it did at the box–their PR team should be banned from the industry.