By Casey Tourangeau

Mailed on May 18, 2012

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Dear Marvin Williams
Second Second Assistant Director

Dear Marvin,

Looking over your film credits, I see a lot of high-profile projects: Spider-Man 2 _and Spider-Man 3, Iron Man_ and Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens. You seem to be the Second-Second-Assistant-Director-of-choice for Hollywood's biggest-budget summer tent-pole films.

After seeing_ Battleship, one film on your resume caught my eye. _Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. No, I'm not making the obvious connection--that both films are "from" toy company Hasbro (which makes them sound like they were assembled from punched-out plastic pieces on some factory assembly line). What I'm talking about is the looming shadow of director Michael Bay.

Sure, Battleship _director Peter Berg eschews the rapid-fire editing style that defines Bay's action aesthetic (and, believe me, that alone elevates this to a level of competence the _Transformers sequels don't even aspire to). Apart from that, though, the film is a pretty pure example of modern cinema's most depressing trends.

You may not know this, but this movie apparently had a plot. Which begins like this: after discovering an earth-like planet, NASA sends out an intergalactic "Oh, hai!" that draws from the reaches of space some vague form of sentient life that comes to earth to…well, that's never clear, but, whatever it is, it's definitely not friendly. Because these interstellar travellers forgot to plan their atmospheric entry, they end up crashing into the Pacific Ocean--less than a mile, of course, from where American and Japanese naval forces are holding military exercises. Hilarity ensues.

Hostile aliens. Military response. Explosions. These seem to be your areas of second-second-assistant-directing expertise. But it's the tone (or tones, since the film can't seem to settle on one) that I wanted to ask you about, Marvin.

Every scene in this movie is directed to achieve maximum…well, everything. Apparently an alien invasion is no longer sufficiently awesome enough to keep an audience's attention. When our hero Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) buys a burrito to impress attractive dialogue delivery device Brooklyn Decker--he buys a burrito to the extreme, breaking into a convenience store, destroying it, and getting tazed. While you were corralling all the extras playing cops and organizing the stunt drivers for that one minor expository scene, did it ever occur to you that this was an exercise in excess for the sake of excess?

Then again, maybe these movies need this sort of hyperactive, brainless forward momentum. This is one dumb, cynical movie, and any distraction from that dumb cynicism can't be a bad thing.

Most troubling, though? _Battleship _wants us to revere the military and love its characters, yet also takes immense pleasure in watching those good men blow up (and they blowed up real good). Can you sense these weird shifts on set, Marvin, or is this simply the magic of post-production? Hell, this movie doesn't even seem to have much faith in its own heroes. The Greatest Generation has to save the day.

Which brings me to my final point: I didn't know that floating museums are kept seaworthy and fully armed just in case they're called on to replace modern nuclear destroyers.

They're not just museums--they're museums to the extreme!



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