American Warship (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
23May/120

American Warship (2012)

I don't believe in guilty pleasures.  If, at some point, you feel guilty consuming something than that means someone has either made you feel guilty or there may be some moral aspect of what you're consuming that you haven't considered which will slowly nag away at your soul.  Eternal struggles of morality and ethics aside, it's up to you to defend what you like and why.  Depending on the product I've accepted answers as little as "It was cute" and rejected those in-depth as a treatise from a film theorist.

Asylum's films have been a bit troubling for me given this.  Danny and I endured a number of attempted camp classics they churned out but were instead long-form torture devices of boredom.  But after watching Nazi's at the Center of the Earth my shift changed.  That film had such a go-for-broke aesthetic and flare that the subtext illuminating and targeting the far right of America ended up really engaging, if only on a visceral surface level.

So now we're back to mockbuster territory with American Warship.  In another life it was known as American Battleship, but a hopeful blockbuster decided the name was too similar and brought legal action to change the name.  Either way, and with either title, I got only a little more than what I expected even if Warship implies more battles than a Battleship delivers.  There's a little more star power with Melvin Van Peebles and Carl Weathers joining the Asylum ranks, even if their star power is only one or two rungs up from Jake Busey.  But there's a weird sense of holding back to fulfill on the titles promise instead of looking at the geopolitical situation the film is actually commenting on.

Ok, admittedly a bit deep for what Asylum digs for, especially considering their business model is built entirely on making films with titles which sound like other popular films to confuse the easily misled around holiday season.  There shouldn't be too much for the creators of Battleship to worry about given the forced name change.  But even with that, the plots are, again, very similar.  Van Peebles leads a creaky old ship into battle against invisible alien forces while Weathers tries to convince the brass back in good ol' American soil that the aliens are actually from outer space, and not the kind from North Korea looking to kill everyone.

Yes, in another attempt at topicality, one of the two main plot threads of American Warships involves the good guys doing what they can to make sure their superiors do not go after the North Koreans or the Chinese.  Much like in Nazi's, with the way it pushes modern conservative viewpoints to the edge, I thought this was interesting.  The standard grunt and elected official alike think the aliens they are attacking are the foreign aliens attacking our shore in your standard right-wing metaphor.

The problem comes when the film careens into the action scenes it's required to have as a lesser clone of Battleship.  But because we're dealing with the less than bargain-basement budget restrictions of Asylum, it goes into endless recycled film footage with bad explosion effects laced over the backgrounds.  In some cases it seemed I was staring at scenes from Top Guy, with its glistening jet fighters in all their phallic glory, after the negatives were exposed to harsh sunlight to give it a grindhouse appeal.  Since we're back in glistening, disaffected, here's a static shot of our leading man mode afterward the scene is brief, but enough to show they were lazy with this film.

Asylum brought Sherlock Holmes through time to fight dinosaurs and put Nazi's in the Earth's crust.  Here it seems they recognized they could have something which carried something of an interesting political charge and instead of ramping the camp value up to 11 with the premise settled for less.  Cookie-cutter stock footage replayed endlessly over bad explosions is not what I've come to expect from Asylum.  Stranger still, I've come to expect something interesting from Asylum, and here's another film that could have taken that intrigue to pulpy extremes but rests on its laurels.

The pedigree may be better, but the results are now disappointing instead of horrible.

American Warship (2012)
Screenplay written and directed by Thunder Levin.
Starring Mario Van Peebles and Carl Weathers.

Posted by Andrew

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