Have you ever wanted to see that schmuck from “John Carter,” that Sports Illustrated swimsuit model from “Just Go With It,” Chris Brown’s on-again off-again girlfriend, and Liam Neeson together in a movie based on a naval strategy game?
If you’re the one person on the planet who does, you are in luck because they made it. A feature-length film about “Battleship” may very well be the laziest project ever to get the green light from a major studio. Peter Berg’s film is stupid, loud, and beyond ridiculous. In a surprising turn though, it’s probably the best “Battleship” movie possible. That doesn’t make the film good. But compared to the low bar that the “Transformers” sequels and “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” have set for the genre, it is a step-up.
The endlessly uncharismatic Taylor Kitsch is Alex Hopper, a naval lieutenant with a lot of potential. The problem is that he’s a goofball that won’t assert himself. He’s a severe disappointment in the eyes of the stern Admiral Shane, portrayed by somebody too talented to be in this picture, the great Liam Neeson. Admiral Shane further resents Hopper for dating his daughter, played by Brooklyn Decker, who does a first-rate job at looking positively gorgeous. Hopper is finally given a chance to prove himself when a commanding officer dies and he is put in charge of a destroyer. He leads a band of misfits lacking in personality, which include Tadanobu Asano as a Japanese captain and the singer Rihanna in her film debut as a petty officer.
It is up to Hopper and his crew to take out enemy ships that have invaded the waters of Hawaii. The ships in question are occupied by a dreaded race of…aliens? That’s right, there are aliens in a “Battleship” movie. I may not be a Battleship professional, but I don’t recall aliens ever being part of the game. If Michael Bay is going to make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aliens though, then all bets are off.
The aliens enslave the navy’s ships in a barrier of sorts and target their weapons toward all modern technology. What do the aliens hope to achieve by invading earth? Never explained. It’s just an excuse for people to run around and for stuff to go boom.
The aliens themselves aren’t very interesting antagonists with about as much character development as the Decepticons. Their giant ships are considerably lackluster compared to the alien vessels that rampaged through Manhattan a few weeks ago in “The Avengers.” The humans aren’t much more compelling, failing to distinguish themselves as individuals we want to see survive. “Battleship” does occasionally offer an amusing moment of mindless escapism. These moments are often spread out though, in a redundant cycle of action sequences.
The film also attempts to employ messages about Japan/USA relations and the dedicated service of aging naval veterans. These are significant themes that are worth exploring. However, they’re in the wrong movie. This isn’t a serious look into the lives of soldiers like “Saving Private Ryan.” It’s “Battleship” for crying out loud! The audience is required to check their brain out before entering the theater. Kind of ironic that a “Battleship” movie would have more humanity and morals to it than Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor.”
Unlike some of these other Hasbro toy adaptations, “Battleship” is at least occasionally fun and joyful. It’s just a little too dumb, misguided and overblown to recommend. But the film’s real crime is leaving out the immortal line, “You sunk my battleship!” Commercials have had Battleship players chanting this classic line for decades. Yet, it’s never said word-for-word in the film once. How did this happen? To compensate they ought to call the sequel, “Battleship II: You Sunk My Battleship.”
"Battleship," a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language. Running time: 131 minutes.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org