Battleship (2012)

Directed by Peter Berg, Battleship is another entry in the Hasbro line-up of movies based on their products. This one is based on the board game of the same name and largely follows in the tradition of the Transformers pictures. This outing features a somewhat more credible director, but it’s hard to say that it’s any better or worse than Michael Bay’s big budget toy commercials.

Like Bay’s Transformers series, Battleship seems to have the mandate of not only selling toys but selling a particular branch of the military. In the case of this 2012 movie, the sales pitch is for the Navy. This is coupled with disdain for science and praise for the brawn of the military for setting the wrong things right. If only those bloody nerds would’ve stopped poking around in space…

Battleship features an ensemble cast and feels an awful lot like Armageddon in its “save the world” ambition. Taylor Kitsch stars as Alex Hopper, an undisciplined shrub with amazing abs. His older brother (Alexander Skarsgård) is on the Navy and pulls his disappointing kid brother aboard. This structure straightens his life out and even somewhat indirectly lands him a hot girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker).

After years in the Navy, Hopper has made it through the ranks of the branch. With the Navy conducting training exercises with the Japanese, the gang is suddenly thrust into action when NASA’s efforts to communicate with life on other planets come to fruition. Alien ships crash into Earth and the Navy responds, being in the right place at the right time. The battle is on.

Admittedly, Berg’s organizing of the naval sequences is pretty good. Some are stirring, even under the weight of bounteous CGI and dumb human behaviour. Unfortunately, everything about the aliens is pointless and the plot to drop notes of the board game into how the Navy handles the extraterrestrial threat is stupid.

Kitsch, who I enjoyed in John Carter, plays the country boy gone right with absolutely zero interest. His sleep-walking rapport with Decker’s character (who refers to him only by his last name) is one of the movie’s subplots, with his strategy to ask her father (Liam Neeson) for her hand in marriage serving up plenty of “gags.” Of course, Decker is just around for one or two reasons and her “acting” isn’t one of them.

The cast also includes Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano and a number of real and retired Navy sailors – including double amputee U.S. Army Colonel Gregory Gadson. Using actual sailors a la Act of Valor provides occasion for one of the tackiest sequences in the picture, complete with “Thunderstruck” and a mound of elderly veterans priming a museum ship to take on the aliens.

The trouble with Battleship isn’t its foolhardy plot, insubstantial characters, creepy recruitment agenda, or even in its mission statement to move more board games in tough economic times. The trouble is that Berg plays this picture earnestly. With the right tone, Battleship could’ve been a fun guilty pleasure. But it tumbles into every cliché conceivable and sinks under the burden of its own illusory significance.

Battleship didn’t do well at the box office in the United States and it probably won’t go down as anything memorable, even among those who saw it and enjoyed it. It’s pointless pabulum in blockbuster skin, a film so trite and moronic that its devastating senselessness should keep aliens away from this planet for centuries.

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