As a contribution to the burgeoning dance romance film genre, Norway’s Battle takes few chances and breaks little new ground.
When Battle begins, it’s difficult not to see it as merely a Norwegian version of Save the Last Dance. Unfortunately for Battle, it struggles to avoid unfavourable comparisons to that film, and mostly fails to make an impression on audiences as a unique entry into the dance-romance genre.
Battle focuses on the privileged life of Amalie, a wealthy girl who spends all of her time and energy on modern dance, where she and her classmates are training for the chance to be awarded a coveted position at a prestigious dance academy in the Netherlands.
But everything changes when one day out of the blue her home is foreclosed upon, and she and her father are forced to collect only their most essential possessions. They move into a tiny apartment while things are sorted out, and while her dad insists that this will be only a temporary situation, from Amalie’s perspective she may as well have been transported to another planet.
Then, in the process of searching for a new training location, she happens upon a local youth centre where Mikael gives her a very abrupt and sudden introduction to the basics of hip-hop dance and, as they would say in a cheesy trailer from the 1990s, worlds collide.
It’s a formula that has been done before (and done better, to be honest) by a handful of other dance films, but the biggest issue by far is the presence of so many thinly-written and underdeveloped lead characters. Amalie, in particular, is written in a way that makes her actions borderline nonsensical.
She goes to great lengths to preserve her relationships with her old friends and maintain her standing within the wealthy community she used to operate within, either outright lying to people or refusing to communicate with them. But she doesn’t actually seem to like her dance friends all that much nor does she, confusingly, have any great connection to her boyfriend (who she treats appallingly, by the way, constantly dropping off the grid and standing him up with little or no apology).
She devotes her life to modern dance but doesn’t act particularly engaged in class or interested in the Dutch dance school, for that matter. It makes for a frustrating viewing experience because she continually messes all of her relationships up for no clear reason. And while both Lise Teige and Fabian Svegaard Tapia (Amalie and Mikael, respectively) give perfectly fine performances, they suffer from the fact that their only real character descriptors are the fact that they dance and regularly exhibit poor decision-making skills.
The one area where the film does excel in is the dance sequences. The intersection between formal modern dance and the moimprovisationalnal style of a hip-hop dance battle is demonstrated particularly well here, and both are celebrated within the film’s narrative.
Sometimes in films like this, we see the formal dance technique derided as stodgy and repressive, while the freefrom style is held up as more expressive and emotionally honest. But Battle does an excellent job of showing that these two styles are more of an extension of one another than anything else, particularly in the final dance scene which blends the two beautifully. All of the dancers are remarkably skilled, and their choreography is both intelligently crafted and engagingly performed.
Ultimately, though, a dance movie should have more going for it than just good dance sequences — there needs to some compelling aspect of the storyline that keeps audiences invested in between the choreographed bits. For that reason, Battle falls short of many other entries into this genre.
7 thoughts on “‘Battle’ | Netflix Film Review”
just seen the movie and I have to agree with you. I am just quite confused by the approach to the character Amelie. I don’t know if her dance is her priority or the “uptown girl” image which she desperately wanted to preserve. The lack of her personality, in meaning, her thoughts or ambitions made this Amelie character seems shallow and immature. In the end, there’s also an unanswered question, like how will her father manage in the end, or if their circumstances would be better, or if she just give up with her dance academy. As a viewer, I just don’t have this satisfaction as there’s not really any development in character, story, and sense.
By the way as a dancer, I find the “hip/hop” or “krumping” in the battle arena just okay, the highlight, I think, was the kid who beat Amelie the first time.
I loved the story, the dancing could be a little stronger. But I loved it!! If they do a sequel I would absolutely watch it.
I thought this review was harsh. I think you missed the beauty of the 2 lead characters. There was so much vulnerability in both their performances. The other films in this genre; such as ‘save the last dance’ paled in comparison. I thought this film was deeply moving. I’m so surprised that you felt that it wasn’t.
At first the dancing, i thought would get better. But it never did…i was kinda surprised there were no minorties dancing. That probually would have made this movie allllot better… But this movie could have done so much better to make it better. 2 stars for me **
The Movie Battle not even in the same universe (or era) as Save the Last Dance. In the first place, declaring bankruptcy is becoming endemic in every society, the harsh treatment of being poor, corporate dominance will make this a cult classic (its not a crisis til it happens to you). No parallel to story lines or their characters’ conflicts. Battle’s main character, Amalie, has swiftly gone from the ‘it’ girl to a stripped down version of herself and knows she needs to maintain her equilibrium (Dad; “Did you tell your friends yet?” Amalie: are you nuts). She successfully creates a status quo at school while her real life drifts away from her crowd, and she is on shaky ground for much of the movie. She is faced with social decisions between friends she has history with, and keeping up with a lifestyle she’s losing a grip on while something else is cooking, but there is no real footing yet to believe in it. While the U.S. version of this movie is so sliced and diced we are left to conclude loose ties, we see the strength of Amalie’s mettle going into that battle after she has been censured by both of her groups at that point. She made a decision, and she goes all in to the battle to face the dissonance. There seems to be an assumption that Fabian Svegaard Tapia should take a backseat in his role because he wasn’t really an ‘actor’; however, he shines as the likable guy with a great character (especially when juxtaposed to Aksel!) and it is because he visibly falls for Amalie that she is lifted. She is, afterall, the one making all the mistakes. Their couples’ chemistry has a strong pulse and much of that is Mikael’s love for her and there is a lot of gravitas in that dynamic. Amalie appears very approachable with Mikael and they share an immediate trust together, as Mikael displays a genuine respect for women On the other hand, we see Amalie’s boyfriend almost takes delight that she has hit the skids (great acting by Vebjorn Enger), and decides to reel her in on a quid pro quo. Soundtrack was great and dancing wonderful. and of course that song Youth by daughter is metaphysical. I think this movie has a lot of staying power.
I’ve liked dance movies since Dirty Dancing! I don’t think you can expect a lot in terms of storyline, it’s always more or less the same thing, so that was fine with me. I think the dancing could have been better, I honestly thought I’d see some more “impressive” moves. The side characters could also have been developed a bit more: the dad, Charlotte, Ida, the boyfriend, and even the dance teacher. They all seem like interesting characters but we see only the surface.
I loved Mikael 😉 Amalie a bit less, but it’s easy to make mistakes when your world crumbles.
All in all, I had a good time watching the film, even if it could have been better.