New on DVD and BluRay this week, Battleship, by all rights, doesn’t make much sense. Based on the Hasbro board game, it begs the question of exactly how one could fashion a script around spouting random numbers to sink enemy ships that cannot be seen. The answer to that question is to insult the intelligence of anyone who paid any money to see this overbloated mess of nonsense. The film is even worse in execution than it is in concept, and for the budget and special effects involved is exceptionally boring. NOTE: Spoilers to follow, but save the money and just read the review instead.
The film’s central character is Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, who simply must have been told to “act cockier” after every single cut), a pointless layabout who is pushed into joining the Navy by his brother Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård), a commander in the US Navy. Flash forward and suddenly Hopper is a lieutenant, but is somehow even more arrogant than he was previously. Hopper is the kind of person everyone hates: arrogant, complete disregard for anyone that’s not him, terrible at his job, and has no discernible skills whatsoever. Yet he still gets the girl and the rank. How?
Speaking of the girl, her name is Sam (Brooklyn Decker, whose wardrobe choices were only “tight” and “tighter”). She is, of course, the admiral’s daughter, and said admiral (Liam Neeson, who clearly got lost on his way to a better film) absolutely hates him. Admiral Shane is the smartest person in the film.
Hawaii is playing host to RimPac, an international Naval exercise designed to build unity and show off big ships. While the ships move out to sea to showcase their assets, a plot thread is interwoven about the Beacon Project, a NASA project designed to communicate with Earth-like planets in other solar systems. During one such attempt, the project is successful, bringing some unknown objects to Earth, one of which crashes into Hong Kong on entry. The remaining objects crash land in the Pacific, near where the RimPac exercises are being held.
Three ships are sent to investigate the disturbance, which turns out to be an alien force. This alien force erects some kind of massive energy dome over Hawaii and the surrounding ocean, trapping all but the three ships outside of the dome. The fight is on and humanity is sent reeling into the ropes. When the smoke clears, the cocky lieutenant is the senior officer remaining on the only remaining ship, so he becomes acting captain and is now in charge of thwarting an alien invasion.
From here, the script wants the audience to abandon any sense of logic whatsoever. One is expected to believe that the aliens, who have mastered intergalactic travel and have created some sort of sentient ball-chain-weapon thing haven’t any concept of radar or tracking gigantic ships or of weapons which can lock onto a target. They’re just firing blindly, shooting artillery-type weaponry. This is forced into the script because otherwise, there’s no way to tie it into the board game on which it is based. Except for that whole sentient ball-chain-weapon thing, which is a devastatingly effective weapon that they… just casually forget to use.
In that light, the “tracking” for the “Battleship” portion of the film makes no sense. One, why not use the clearly-more-effective ball-chain-weapon thing? Two, actually seeing the concept of the board game Battleship come to life is so utterly ridiculous that no word exists in any written language to describe it. They’re firing at moving objects based on the water they’re displacing as tracked by buoys even though they’ve no idea how fast they’re moving, how they’re moving, etc. They are arbitrarily firing at empty positions at random and hoping for the best, only this time the stakes are higher than laughing at your brother when you win.
Then there’s the giant dome of energy constructed over Hawaii. The entire thing is summed up in a throwaway line by Neeson’s character, that they can’t get in. Yet it seems the entire time that no actual effort is made to get into it or to communicate through it. The Pentagon, the entire Navy, everyone is clueless about what to do. With exception to Sam, who runs into the one scientist (Cal, played here by Hamish Linklater) who knows how to communicate through the barrier so she can call her boyfriend. So the entire Pacific fleet is rendered helpless, while the sexy blonde, the fallen soldier, and the nerdy scientist are effortlessly able to figure out everything that’s going on in the span of about five minutes.
Worse still, however, is the aliens themselves. Glossing over why they’re here (global destruction, which the film makes very clear), why are they so utterly inept? The answer is that the script requires them to be, so that the vastly outmatched and outgunned humans can scrape together enough ingenuity to defeat them. The aliens seem to have some sort of “threat detection” vision which shows them what is and isn’t a threat. This ability/technology is the script’s ultimate contrivance, with the aliens deciding that specific people/objects/naval warships are not threats just to keep the plot moving. If they’re here to dominate the world (and again, the film makes it pretty explicit that they are), then why do they just arbitrarily ignore potential threats? The destroyer that Hopper commands is spared because he turns his guns away and turns away from the alien ships. This somehow eliminates the fact that it is a warship with gigantic guns and a huge cache of munitions, operated by a race that had no problem firing on them with two exactly similar ships moments earlier.
There is nothing redeemable about the film. The acting is atrocious on almost all counts (not even Neeson can save it). The effects are boring. The plot makes absolutely no sense, and the aliens are worthless pushovers. But, it does teach us a couple of things. One, that it’s perfectly logical to believe a ship that has been decommissioned and not used in over a decade can just be fired up and chug right out to sea, and fight down a vastly superior threat. Two, carrying a half-ton artillery shell is no big deal if you just get enough men under it. Three, Peter Berg has made a profession out of insulting film audiences as much as possible (ever see Hancock?) and somehow still gets paid to do it. One out of five stars, and that may actually be pushing it.
By Nicholas Haskins
If you’re still considering seeing this dreck despite my warnings, you can check out the feature trailer here. Like my reviews? Please subscribe to them if so. You can also become a fanboy/girl and follow me on Twitter or book my face.