Directed by: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Hamish Linklater
Running Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Release Date: May 18, 2012
PLOT: A naval lieutenant (Kitsch) must use strategy to defeat invading alien watercraft on the ocean.
WHO’S IT FOR?: The articulate fellow who called me a “ferry princess” for my negative Act of Valor review is going to l-o-v-e Battleship; this is the military pride parade that moviegoers have only been peppered up for by Michael Bay’s Transformers films. The only people this movie is bound to offend are those who are “Battleship” purists.
EXPECTATIONS: It’s no small task to be the latest military-focused Hasbro toy movie of the summer. I was curious to see how big director Berg was going to take this board game adaptation.
Taylor Kitsch as Lieutenant Alex Hopper: Having previously given a buoyant performance in the sunken John Carter, Kitsch returns to win over audiences and lay territory for a sturdy action star presence. He certainly receives a boost in this quest from the film’s humor, which introduces us to this character with a goofy sequence involving a chicken burrito mission. After this scene, (and hearing that he rose fast in the Navy), we are shown his flaws, which include being cocky, having a short temper, and not having sufficient bravery. As the story builds, he reminds audiences of the non-serious cockiness we might see from a James Franco performance. Berg ultimately grounds this character (and boosts Hopper’s general potential to be liked) when he becomes a good ol’ boy fighting for the Navy’s cause.
Alexander Skarsgaard as Commander Stone Hopper: While involved in the movie’s extra-terrestrial silliness, Skarsgaard’s character is a dead serious soldier. He’s the kind who treats everything like he were in the Navy’s own version of Saving Private Ryan. While his brother shows how the Navy can straighten someone out, Commander Hopper (after recruiting his brother) exemplifies the poster image of those fully committed to their service; he even proclaims to his brother that his position is, “My job, my life.”
Brooklyn Decker as Samantha Shane: Considering the objectification that former-Sports Illustrated model Decker could easily have fallen victim to, she shows a few bursts of dynamism while inside her box of being both a love interest, and the admiral’s daughter. Though Berg is aware of her appeal in a swimsuit, she is refreshingly given some functional purpose in enriching the film’s admiration for servicemen and women. And yes, she has certainly come a long way since being Adam Sandler’s piece of meat in Just Go With It.
Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane: Walking off one action movie set and onto the next, Neeson is back in the position of the Intimidating Patriarch. He growls with a low voice like one of the wolves in his previous movie The Grey. Because of a pesky alien shield, Neeson doesn’t get to rock ‘n roll much on alien scum, but he does get a couple of amusing one-liners before and after the movie’s central chaos.
Rest of Cast: Rihanna doesn’t sink her silver screen debut by sticking to her scrappy appearance, and also by not overwhelming audience members with any absurdities (other than a cheesy monologue about her father’s cliche wisdom about aliens). Hamish Linklater (The Future) provides a twitchy performance as the egg head who has the knowledge to stop a problem, but not so much the all-American courage to get things done.
TALKING: Battleship certainly isn’t above stock action dialogue like, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this!” And while this might upset people who love the board game and its impact on pop culture, no one exclaims the phrase “You sunk my battleship!”
SIGHTS: Good golly does this thing have some SFX. There are huge explosions to be witnessed here, especially with the massive destruction of whole ships, both alien and human. While the action sequences might not have the same amount of brainpower in their story as their imagining (a Hawaii rampage is just forgotten about), they are certainly loaded with the type of precise imagery summer blockbusting has now become all about. Forget Dark Shadows, this is the type of movie that should be in IMAX.
SOUNDS: Battleship‘s sound design is colored by a slew of shrill and unpleasant sounds, some of them pushing the acceptability for villainous loud mixing. The Battleship soundtrack features songs from groups like Stone Temple Pilots and Band of Horses. Confirming Berg’s old soul mentality, and that this really is the war epic he’s been yearning to make, “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival takes audience members into the closing credits.
BEST SCENE: Amongst many impressive moments of utter destruction, watching a “shredder” slice a massive destroyer boat in half just leaves you really giddy.
ENDING: Yeah, there’s a minute-long sequence tag at the end of the credits. Yes, it’s predictable. And yeah, they probably should have saved it as a teaser for the sequel. But what can you do? It’s still a movie based on a board game.
QUESTIONS: What could happen next in the sequel … would it involve more air combat? Why are the aliens, with their love for playing “Battleship,” their goofy beards and random love for horses, kind of dorky?
REWATCHABILITY: Battleship might be overwhelming in almost every way to the senses, but it does offer great moments of pure SFX spectacle which would be worth the revisit.
Taking a whole lot out of a board game based on guessing more than strategy, Battleship is the type of obliteration of the senses that human beings can only handle in the summertime. This one has got the commodities of the mega movie season: babes, big explosions, aliens, and a whole lot of military pride.
While it may not be that smart of a movie (Oh, big surprise!), the spirit of Battleship is rescued by its new level of pure admiration for people who serve. These aren’t Michael Bay’s hunky, demographic filling soldiers, or even the phony action heroes that derailed the momentarily sweet intentions of Act of Valor. Instead, though it features a group of sailors fighting aliens, this is a movie thoroughly about the power of the Navy. It admires the strategy that real members of the Navy use, and it certainly is in awe of the types of ships used to fight ne’er do wells, no matter where they come from. This is a massive military movie that just happens to feature extra-terrestrials as the main bad guys. Even when it toys with how much of a bombardment of silliness audiences can handle, Battleship has a strong and winning spirit that lies in the water.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10