Release Date: May 18th, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Berg Actors: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Hamish Linklater, John Tui
hile watching “Battleship,” you’d think it would be hard to forget that the movie is based on a Hasbro board game. But with a surplus of enormous explosions, mechanical beasts, swimsuit models, hip hop singers, and giant spinning orbs of doom, it’s easy to mentally substitute a thousand prior films as inspiration rather than the iconic strategy game. Perhaps it’s difficult to envision new territory in alien invasion movies, but “Battleship” so generously borrows from predecessors (and even video games like “Halo”), that it’s a wonder the filmmakers bothered to credit the title’s source at all. Unfortunately, while the film takes numerous themes, plot points, and design choices from its brethren, it doesn’t adopt the requisite endearing protagonist. Our hero is stubborn, brash, arrogant, and vapid – not good traits for someone we’re supposed to root for. You can’t even cheer for the aliens as they possess even less personality.
When his older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgaard) convinces him to join the Navy, reckless Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) finally has a chance to straighten out his life. Though his headstrong ways continually find him in trouble with Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), Alex is determined to marry his superior’s daughter Sam (Brooklyn Decker). His plans are interrupted when a foreign spacecraft lands in the Pacific Ocean and the battleships participating in the RIMPAC maritime exercises are sent to investigate. When it’s discovered that the alien vessel belongs to a hostile race of invading extraterrestrials, Alex must band together with his fellow mariners to save the world from total annihilation.
Why is this film based on the Battleship game? Hasbro certainly doesn’t own the rights to the word “battleship.” And this film has absolutely nothing to do with the game, save for a contrived scene in which alien vessels are tracked by red blips on a large display. Although it’s unoriginal to say, “Battleship” is essentially “Transformers” in the water, filled with the same level of visual nonsense, thundering noise, copious effects shots, and walloping chaos and destruction. One could also compare it to last year’s “Battle: Los Angeles” but without the realism, or “District 9” without the political commentary. It’s bad enough that the aliens themselves are so hopelessly conventional – what happened to the stunning uniqueness of monsters like those in “Independence Day?” There’s also the theft of Harold Russell’s role of Homer Parrish (portrayed by a real life soldier who lost both of his hands in a training accident) from “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) – replaced here by a legless marine played by Gregory D. Gadson. The life-asseverating tone (along with actual navy veterans, accouterments, and munitions) seems awfully out of place (and even a touch disrespectful) considering the abundance of nutty alien invasion hullabaloo (dubbed by the government as an “extinction level event”) substituted for believable wartime reenactments.
The filmmakers are under the impression that every action, every line of dialogue, and every second of computer-generated imagery represents the most awe-inspiring, adrenaline-rushing adventure ever to hit the big screen. Unfortunately for them, they’re utterly wrong. The amount of generic material and stereotypical sequences is staggering. Brotherly love, camaraderie, Hopper comically messing up sensitive situations with tactlessness, psyching up in the mirror, a closely matched sporting event, wise elders gaining respect for combat maneuvers, patriotic music, a young child impressed by rank, a sexy girl on the beach, the courting of a leader’s daughter, military footage, a rebel who won’t play by the rules, a nerdy scientist who must conduct at least one feat of bravery, a tough female trooper spouting rallying chatter – every nuance, every reaction, every verbal exchange is so formulaic that “Battleship” seems to be compiled from every big blockbuster from the last five years. At least the navy has some impressive toys.
– The Massie Twins