May 21 2012
It’s a concept that’s been mocked for well over a year now. Hollywood has run out of ideas to the point where they’re making movies out of board games. The announcement of a Battleship film was met with jeers, and rightfully so, it’s a concept so dumb it makes the upcoming Asteroids movie look like Citizen Kane in comparison.
It also raises certain questions. For example, is Hasbro shelling out millions upon millions for this feature to increase sales of their archaic Battleship board game? Or did those involved with the film have to pay the toy company to allow them to use the branding power of the game that we all played approximately five times as children? The mind boggles at how equally stupid each scenario is.
The film would have at least garnered some respect if it just dropped the entire Battleship moniker to begin with. An original, blockbuster feature about aliens fighting battleships is not the worst idea for a movie, but with the “Battleship” brand attached, all anyone ever sees is the toy. But I guess you need some sort of brand recognition when you’re spending $200M on a film, even if it’s just grasping at childhood straws.
Obviously Hasbro wanted to replicated the success of the Transformers series, from which Battleship borrows heavily. But while many of us have fond memories of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee growing up, few can say the same about a tiny gray aircraft carrier that was sunk because stupid Billy Sanders totally cheated and looked at my board when I went to get some string cheese.
And remember kids, Battleship is for Tommy only. Susie has dishes to wash with mom!
As such, they had to start from the ground up, hence the inclusion of techno-superior aliens to liven things up and “Transformerfy” the film. And who would sign up for such a daft exercise in filmmaking? Well, director Peter Berg threw some darts at a wall full of headshots and came up with two Dillon Panthers, a True Blood vampire, an R&B singer, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl and Turtle from Entourage (seriously, look for him). And of course we can’t forget Liam Neeson, who between this and two “Titans” sequels must be going a bit batty as he grows older and chooses new film projects. Or he’s just being paid obscene amounts of money to show up and look imposing for twenty minutes.
Taylor Kitsch plays a goofier variant of Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights named Alex Hopper. An eternal screw-up and lady chaser, he lets his stupidity get in the way of showing everyone what a good guy he is. After he gets arrested trying to steal a chicken burrito to impress Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), his brother (Alexander Skarsgard) forces Alex into the Navy to serve alongside him.
Flash forward six years, and Hopper is in a position of moderate power, but still a disaster of a human being. He’s about to get kicked out of the Navy after mucking up a giant Pacific Ocean war games exercise (well, the soccer game portion at least), but thankfully his job is saved by an alien invasion.
There’s a vague back story laid out about how in 2005 we set up a satellite to try and communicate with a “goldilocks zone” Earth type planet in another star system (as if NASA would ever have that kind of budget). Well, turns out they heard us, and when five ships come crashing into the ocean, it’s clear they’re not the friendly kind. Surprise!
Once their helmets come off, you’ll witness the most off-putting alien design in history.
Battleship makes you want to claw your eyes out during the inane “set-up” phase before the aliens land. They desperately try to give Hopper depth, but as soon as he’s introduced as a ne’er do well, you can guess his character progression instantly. Will he find it in himself to stop dicking around during an alien assault and become the savior Earth needs? I wonder. Thankfully he has Petty Officer Rihanna to help him.
Once the action starts, the inane dialogue mercifully ceases and we’re left with the type of explosions and CGI you were expecting when you walked through the door. You may ask where the “Battleship” part of Battleship comes in, pertaining to the board game. Well, the small scouting party of aliens make a protective bubble in the water trapping only a handful of naval destroyers in, while the rest of the world is shut out. You should be able to see where this is going.
But then something happens that causes the film to leap from ridiculously bad to just ridiculous. There’s a moment about two thirds of the way through where Hopper’s destroyer, devoid of radar, must map out a grid to pinpoint the alien’s ship locations via a series of floating buoys that measure water pressure. As such, they have to pick their targets manually, and it’s “B4, miss! F11, hit!” They’re actually playing Battleship. Well. Played.
Can she act? I have no idea. It’s probably not best to judge her with this script.
It’s in that moment when you’re able to let go of how bad the film is, and just appreciate it in all its absurd glory. It starts to grow on you, and by the end, you’re dangerously close to actually having…fun? The battles between the warships and alien vessels are more enjoyable than anything I saw out of the last two Transformers films, and the rising action just gets more and more outlandish to a point where by the end, you have to just surrender and enjoy yourself a bit.
The final product is a mix of a Michael Bay film and a love letter to the Navy. It was rather cool that they used actual veterans in the film, even giving a legless vet a major role opposite Brooklyn Decker, who acts as his rehab therapist.
Is Battleship good? God no. And it’s going to lose so much money that’s it’s going to serve as a lesson for Hollywood not to pull crap like this again. That said, it’s not the unwatchable disaster it could have been, and it’s just so insane that by the end, it’s hard not to smile a little at its absurdity.
3 out of 5 stars
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