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Battleship – Loud and stupid, but watchable

Battleship - Theater Review
Release Date: 05/18/2012 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 2 Clacks

'Battleship' isn’t the worst movie, but it isn’t as light as it tries to be and is way too long to really work as a silly action flick.

Remember this line? “You sunk my Battleship!”

Well, it sunk all right.

There isn’t much to be expected from a movie like Battleship (from director Peter Berg; read our exclusive interview), and barely anything comes from it. This is purely designed to be a light-hearted, family-friendly popcorn film, suitable for all ages and backgrounds, internationally friendly with a strong emphasis on supporting the military of any free country. That’s about right, although…

We start with NASA scientists discovering an Earth-like planet far into space somewhere, so they send an ultra powerful signal into space using a magic satellite (it’s got to be, considering it seems to break the laws of relativity).

Then we meet our protagonist, Alex Hopper, played by Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, Friday Night Lights), who is a young, brash idiot with supposedly amazing untapped potential and talent. The movie is sure to tell us this several times, but it doesn’t really show us this at all — making his amazing comeback later in the movie (a well known cliche, if often effective), not really even set up correctly. He hits on a young blonde named Sam (played by Brooklyn Decker, Professional Attractive Female, or PAF), but despite the urgings of his boring, straight-laced brother Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård), he successfully impresses her by breaking and entering in a silly slapstick, but somewhat amusing fashion. If he wants to avoid jail, he’ll need to join the Navy. Stone is a Commander, so that’s easy enough. But, uh oh, Sam is the daughter of Admiral Shane, played by Liam Neeson! But enough of that minor character development, it’s time to fast forward to the future.

Seven years later, it’s this year, and Alex has somehow become a lieutenant, despite the fact he’s still an idiot with “wasted potential.” It’s now time for RIMPAC, a real world international naval war game exercise, but Alex has some sort of manufactured conflict with Japanese office Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), seemingly based on losing a game of soccer. I bet those two will never get along! Unfortunately, it seems mysterious aliens have to butt in, sending down some sorts of ships, one of which breaks apart in Hong Kong. The rest land in the Pacific near Hawaii (where the satellites were built), and soon set up an impenetrable shield. All those cruisers and destroyers and carriers can’t break through!

But three plucky destroyers are still inside, one helmed by Stone, one by Nagata, and the other by somebody that doesn’t matter, but Alex and his buddies Cora (Rihanna), Walter (John Tui), and Jimmy (Jesse Plemons) are on board. There’s back and forth attack for a while, with the aliens shooting missiles shaped like the pegs from the Battleship game, and eventually there’s a clever bit where they’re shooting and missing like in the game. But it’s mostly explosions and aliens attacking things, seemingly inconsistently — sometimes it’s like they want to cause damage or harm innocents, other times they only retaliate after having been attacked. When we discover more about the aliens, the metaphor becomes obvious (I won’t spoil it). The aliens have taken over the satellites to try and send a signal home (for what, we don’t really find out), so Sam, a physical therapist who’s luckily nearby with veteran Mick (real life veteran amputee and motivational speaking Gregory D. Gadson) have to get help, along with nerdy stereotype Name Not Needed (Hamish Linklater).

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of initially impressive action that’s repeated ad nauseum, fetishizing of the military (the director has a real love and respect for the military, but that comes across more like manipulative and jingoistic, despite the inclusion of the Japanese allies), and no character development beyond the bare minimum. Even though it’s a movie based on a board game with no plot or characters, it’s more like a straight action film — and that is its true failure.

It’s a stupid action movie for the whole family.

**Editor’s note: If you’re one of those people who likes to stick around through the credits to see if there’s going to be an Easter egg … stick around through the credits on this one!

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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One Response to “Battleship – Loud and stupid, but watchable”

May 18, 2012 at 9:58 AM

“one helmed by Stone, one by Nagata, and the other by somebody that doesn’t matter”

This line made me chuckle.

A UK review from about a month ago noted that this could have been a lot better if they had taken the aliens out of it and gone with a Hunt for Red October-like submarine flick. That would have at least had some semblance of the board game in it. And I know it’s a cliche at this point, but trying to be Transformers isn’t the way to go.