The world’s leading scientists have developed a way to beam a signal to what appears to be a habitable planet in a neighboring solar system in search of extraterrestrial life. Little did they know that the response we got back would be an invasion force by an alien species. Landing their initial forces just off the coast of Hawaii, where a number of Naval vessels from around the world are engaging in war games, our space traveling visitors quickly take control by blocking out everything in the immediate area with the exception of one ship…a battleship! It is up to the crew of that ship to stop the alien menace before they can call in reinforcements and totally decimate our planet.
Making a big budget summer movie out of Hasbro’s table top strategy board game is the final nail in the coffin, every last ounce of originality has officially been sucked out of Hollywood. Why else would a movie like this get green-lit let alone budgeted as a summer blockbuster? If we aren’t careful, these silly internet concoctions could become a reality as well. What happens when the well runs dry on those though? Will we then get the highly anticipated big screen adaptation of the card game UNO?! But here’s the amazing thing about “Battleship”, while highly flawed and completely unnecessary, it isn’t as horrible as you might be expecting.
Director Peter Berg’s “Battleship” is nowhere near as awful as it should have been. But that is about the best thing you are likely to hear about this board-game-turned-movie. It has some pretty neat effects and some genuinely thrilling battle scenes but by no means is this a good movie. A lot has been made of the fact that Berg was attempting to mimic the successful (financially anyway) Michael Bay theory of filmmaking, “make it loud, make it long and make it blow up”. While it is anyone’s guess if that was Berg’s true intentions, it is clear that the filmmaker was most definitely inspired by some of Bay’s past cinematic atrocities because this movie is EXTREMELY LOUD, way too long and just about everything we see blows up at some point.
Berg’s other films such as “The Rundown” and “Very Bad Things” were fantastic films that showed he not only had a good style to his filmmaking but knew how to create characters that while not exactly deep, they at least were likable and somewhat believable. So it is a testament to his skills (we won’t count “Hancock”) that he was not only able to perfectly imitate a Michael Bay big movie extravaganza as he does, but due to his actual talent behind the camera in comparison to that other guy, he shows us what those other films he is taking inspiration from would actually be like if the person who made them had any real talent behind the camera.
Now, it would have been nice had he also delivered a smart script and decent characters as well, but at least he gets all the action right. The initial attack sequence where we get to see three Destroyers face off against the alien ships is probably the single most successful action scene in the film simply because it all makes tactical sense what everyone is doing and we can actually keep track of what all is going down. If there is one thing “Battleship” gets right that just about every other Michael Bay movie since “Bad Boys 2” has gotten wrong, it is the action.
Sadly, and predictably, the film doesn’t do so well on all other fronts. One of the more unfortunate things that Berg took from Michael Bay is this very strange and completely asinine idea that his movie must be long. You can’t fill a two hour and ten minute movie with scene after scene of people repeating the same actions over and over again, but that is what happens here and it happens far too often. To clarify, everything at sea with the Navy versus aliens never felt repetitive, as a matter of fact that is where some of the more inventive parts of the film take place. In reference to how repetitive and exhausting the film becomes are all the scenes that occur AROUND the more interesting sequences that take place out on the open water.
Inter-cut with with all the action out on the water we are “treated” to a number of scenes at the Pentagon with a handful of characters spouting things back and forth about what is happening at Hawaii…and that’s all they do. Those scenes could have been lifted from any other generic movie about alien invaders and we wouldn’t know the difference. They are just the beginning of many other convoluted and completely pointless story arcs and characters such as Lt. Alex Hopper’s (Taylor Kitsch) girlfriend Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) and her physical therapy job which drags the film down to the bowels of excessive pointlessness.
If it were too trim away the girlfriend scenes, the Pentagon scenes and just about everything that is happening outside that barrier then it would have been a much more tightly focused film and possibly even better film. The fun doesn’t stop there either. We see Hopper distracted by the entrance of Samantha into the bar and after witnessing her lack of luck trying to get a damn chicken burrito (seriously, who writes this stuff?), he ditches his brother (Alexander Skarsgard) and does this crazy stunt to attain a chicken burrito for her, only to end up arrested and beat up. He then gets a speech by his brother who tells him he has to join the Navy with him or else he is done for. Those series of events provide the basic outline for every character in the film, seriously.
The other supporting roles don’t have it any easier with singer/actress(?) Rihanna showing up as a hard-as-nails Naval grunt (Yeah, that’s believable) and not being believable in the role in the least. But by far the greatest crime to both us and the actor himself is Liam Neeson’s inclusion into the film. The trailer would have you believe he plays a central role in defending Earth against the alien attack but in reality he is sadly relegated to the sidelines and NEVER ONCE engages the alien menace, he never even sees them! He is barely even in the movie but yet they saw fit to give him his own damn poster! This just seemed like a pretty blatant attempt to lure in his fan base. Shame on them!
Despite the above par effects and a handful of entertaining sea battles, the film ultimately fails due to a bloated run time, cardboard cutout characters and staggering gaps in logic that were a horrible distraction to an otherwise fun popcorn flick. When it is in the water it swims but whenever it hits the land it sinks fast and hard. However, If you are a fan of the Michael Bay school of filmmaking and want another fix of mindless action but done right, then this might do the trick for you. It may not have made much of a splash at the box office, but “Battleship” is a fairly serviceable distraction for a Saturday afternoon rental if you feel so inclined to give it a chance.