Thursday, August 9, 2012


Directed by Peter Berg.
2012. Rated PG-13, 131 minutes.
Taylor Kitsch
Brooklyn Decker
Alexander Skarsgard
Tadanobu Asano
Hamish Linklater
John Tui
Liam Neeson
Jesse Plemons
Gregory D. Gadson

I played a lot of board games as a kid. Monopoly and Life were my favorites. I was never big into Battleship, but I had friends that were. I remember the commercials far better than the game itself. They always end when one kid incredulously exclaims “You sank my battleship!” Some version of that iconic scene playing out at the climactic moment is pretty much all I expected the film version. Even those modest hopes proved too lofty.

Toy company Hasbro owns the rights to the game and apparently aren’t too particular about any sort of faithfulness to its properties. As long as whatever is thrown up on the screen brings in goo-gobs of money, all is good. Who could blame them? After all, they also own the rights to Transformers. Whether you love or hate those movies, there is no denying they’re ridiculously successful at the box office.

This brings us back to Battleship, the movie. The game is one of naval strategy, your fleet against your buddy’s. The movie is about an intergalactic alien invasion just off the coast of Hawaii. Wait…what? Okay fine, I’ll roll with it. After finally finding a planet similar enough to Earth to sustain life we send out a signal in an effort to make contact. Never you mind that it’s travelling billions of miles yet appears to get there quicker than most cell phone calls. Just know that whoever is on the other end sends back a military scout team to set up their own communication with their boys back home and commence the takeover.

Before any of this, we meet Alex Hopper (Kitsch), a long-haired hothead with a penchant for trouble. He’s infatuated with Samantha (Decker), the blonde at the bar who very strongly resembles a swimsuit model. By the way, her dad happens to run the local Naval fleet. Fast forward a year or so and now Alex is a short-haired hothead Naval lieutenant who is in love with and dating the swimsuit model from the bar. Her dad still runs the fleet. Oh yeah, Alex might be a captain. Stupid movie has people calling him both. I’m sure this is a joke that I don’t get but that’s kind of a problem, no?

Anyhoo, you write the rest of the script. Make sure the aliens aren’t particularly bright and let an awful lot of obviously military people live after having shown the capacity to kill by the hundreds. Do this to spare our heroes for the sole purpose of making sure this thing stretches to over two hours. Keep your love story mostly centered around Alex being intimidated by his girlfriend’s father. Even though this guy is played by Liam Neeson, don’t use him for anything else. Shoehorn in a few references to the game, including a giant grid, of course. Add in a ton of jokes and one-liners. Pray at least a few of them are funny. In other words, make it exactly like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, or any of his other movies, for that matter.

Imitating Bay is precisely what director Peter Berg does. However, Joe Q Public isn’t as much a cushion for Battleship to fall back on. Despite the game having been around since World War I, in some form or another, it has nowhere near the nostalgia factor going for it that Transformers does. Dots on a paper or blips on a grid are nowhere near as exciting as giant fighting robots. Besides that, I’m not sure anyone who has played the game could come up with enough of a storyline to justify a movie being made for it. Sadly, neither could the people actually involved in making it. Second, this doesn’t offer the spectacle of said robots transforming. The fact that none of aliens has as much as a personality renders this even more run of the mill. Think about it. We’ve seen scores of alien invasion flicks, but only three Transformers flicks. So far, that is. I hate to sound like I’m defending that franchise because I hate the last two movies it gave us. At least they give us something we’re not really getting anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong. If you’re looking for lots of stuff going boom, there is some enjoyment to be had here. It’s paced quickly enough and the aliens unleash some nasty weaponry. If you want anything deeper than that, move along. Nothing to see here.

MY SCORE: 4/10

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