Battleship – Film Review
STARRING: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
STUDIO: Bluegrass Films, Film 44, Hasbro Studios,Universal Pictures
RUN TIME: 131 min
RELEASED: May 18, 2012
By Eric Stuckart
With a few scant weeks before the real sci-fi/alien movie Prometheus sets fire to all the competition, we’re left with few options in terms of what to watch to bide the time. I mean, who hasn’t already seen The Avengers, right? So, unfortunately, that leaves us with Battleship.
While not quite as much of a train wreck as I was expecting, it wasn’t all that great either. Then again, when your expectations are barely scraping the bottom of the b-movie barrel, anything could pass for decent. Considering that I’m the type of guy that can find enjoyment out of even the trashiest schlock (Machete or Ghost Rider 2, anyone?), that’s really saying something.
But no, my friends, Battleship is not in that self-aware, “so bad it’s good” category. It’s just sitting squarely in that uncomfortable limbo where movies go that just don’t do enough to make you care either way. Sure, there’s some great special effects moments, the requisite comic relief here and there, mainly in the form of the Jeff Goldblum-esque Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater), and a slightly thought out setup to how one makes a movie such as this. There’s even the obligatory side story about would-be hero Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and his girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker) on opposite sides of the battle. It’s just that all of this really doesn’t add much to the vanilla-grade blockbuster bullshit that’s going on elsewhere.
Long story short, Alex Hopper is one of those classic cinematic fuckups; he’s the bad boy with a heart of gold and tons of potential who just can’t seem to get his shit together. A naval officer at the RIMPAC naval exercises, it’s his lack of judgment and decision making skills that nearly gets him kicked out of the Navy. However, just in the nick of time, five alien ships come barreling out of the sky, four of which land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in relatively close proximity to the ships out at sea for the event. With the world’s fate lying in the balance, it’s up to Alex to step up and become a true hero, or something like that. If this all sounds very clichéd, don’t worry; it is. And then some.
That’s about all the film really offers us; there’s no real explanation for the extraterrestrials’ presence besides the opening, which explains how NASA scientists beamed a communication signal to a planet in another galaxy thought to be of the same inhabitable qualities as earth. They did this to see if there’s any intelligent life out there, and the result was the aliens coming to visit. Other than that, there’s nothing really explaining the aliens’ actions, which are questionable at best. This is all before we even get into the fact that the film is so loosely tethered to its board game “inspiration” that it might as well not have even been called Battleship. I mean, sure, the aliens’ ordnance look pretty much exactly like the pegs in the game, and part of the Navy’s endgame centers around tactics pulled straight from the gameplay, but it’s akin to making a movie about checkers that amounts to a warrior that kills everyone up the ladder only to reach the top and take over as ruler.
The ties to a game such as this are so tenuous at best that there’s no point. But I get it. With the Transformers franchise taking a bit of a break while things are reworked for the next Michael Bay grand opus, Hasbro Studios needs something to get those asses in the theater seats. And if you’re going into it just to turn your brain off and see shit blow up, or if you’re the type that gets a bit of a thrill out of seeing Americans kick some alien ass, à la Independence Day, there’s enough of that in this to make the trip worthwhile, in a lowest common denominator kind of way. But for those of us who crave either A) an alien/sci-fi movie that has a gripping story and great characters to go along with the effects or B) something undeniably tacky but loose enough to have fun with it, well this ain’t it. Battleship has all the ingredients of something that could be much more, but the way its all packaged and delivered onscreen doesn’t do nearly enough to elevate it above mediocre.
Front page image and interior stills from.