Have we really run out of ideas for big-budget summer blockbusters? Hollywood is tapping into board games for a concept to fuel a motion picture? Basing a film off of a comic book or cartoon character is fine, but making a movie based on a game that required very little movement is just insanely uncreative, yet it just might be the trick for success. Peter Berg‘s Battleship isn’t completely dead in the water, but it’s damn near close. Battleship is full of expensive set pieces, hot and young talent and it’s also one of the most poorly written pieces of junk that you’re likely to see at a movie theater this summer. There’s a few instances where the film breaks out and becomes kind of unique and fun, but that’s quickly followed by throwaway dialogue and just tedious filmmaking on a basic level.
Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is an unmotivated 20 something year old. His brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) has all of his ducks in a row, but Alex just can’t seem to grasp anything in life. One drunken night while out celebrating his birthday, Alex meets an insanely attractive lady by the name of Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker). He goes to the end of the world to get her a burrito and by doing so he ends up in a relationship with her. Yes; that’s the kind of stuff that Battleship uses to weld relationships and build key plot points. You don’t get to see these characters actually form a bond, but you do get to see Taylor Kitsch act like a complete fool, all for some girl that probably isn’t the type that will be sticking around forever.
Anyways, Battleship moves along as Alex is forced into the Navy by his brother Stone. Almost instantly Alex finds a way to mess things up and Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) informs him that once they’re done with naval exercises Alex will most likely be kicked out of the Navy.
But Alex is in love with Samantha, who just so happens to be Admiral Shane’s daughter. Alex and Samantha have a plan for Alex to ask the Admiral for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but all of that gets royally screwed up when alien invaders come crashing down. See, there’s this satellite that was launched in 2005 to communicate to other Earth like planets out there and it looks like someone or something has finally accepted our invitation.
These Halo looking Pirates of the Caribbean sea-creature things aren’t the friendliest, but they aren’t completely bad. A ship comes crashing down to Earth and it forms a protective dome around several naval ships and it begins a good old fashioned showdown of war games. Alex, Stone and fellow Navy members like Weps (Rihanna) must now defeat these aliens by using their teamwork and brains.
Back on land Samantha and a no-legged soldier must overcome some alien forces that are trying to send back a signal to their home planet.
Peter Berg‘s Battleship has a lot going on, but when you cut down to its core there really isn’t anything all that important happening. It’s two or three half-baked ideas smashed together with the bare minimum of storytelling. Whenever something doesn’t sound right on paper and you as an audience member begin to question the logic of it all, director Peter Berg throws in scene or two of shiny and exploding visuals. These CGI heavy sequences look pretty and are actually kind of exciting on occasion, but they never serve as a fit substitute for something as simple as an engrossing story.
The acting is some of the worst yet. Musician Rihanna does her best impression of a fourteen year old boy playing with shiny and potentially dangerous objects. Watching her hold a gun is almost as scary as watching her deliver a line with more than five words.
Taylor Kitsch feels a lot more comfortable with his role here than John Carter, but that doesn’t mean he’s any better. I prefer his John Carter role because at least that movie felt big, fun and daring. Battleship plays everything so dumbed down. Kitsch’s character learns the basic idea of teamwork and taking some responsibility, but I’d like to think any moron can learn then when under attack by an extra-terrestrial force.
Liam Neeson is great in his entire two minutes of screen time. He’s just another hard-ass that has nothing more to say than, “Shut up” or “fall in line soldier”.
Brooklyn Decker must be commemorated for her spot-on portrayal of a glass of water. She’s serviceable for the role and fills up that eye-candy void, but she’s so tasteless and bland. I wouldn’t say she’s anymore of an actress than Rihanna. At least Rihanna plays the mildly handicapped weapons operator with a flash of boyish charms and confusion. Decker simply shakes her goodies and hopes we care.
There’s still a little good buried underneath all of the shit in Berg’s Battleship. For starters, it’s got some really good alien effects and designs. They’re not your usual robotic creatures or slimy prawns. This time they have more human characteristics and look like something out of a recent video game. Their intentions are actually detailed and slightly thought out, which feels shockingly refreshing.
Peter Berg also does a good job at expanding from the board game roots. There are more than a few winks and nods at the popular Hasbro game, especially during a really cool scene when two ships are going back and forth, just like a REAL game of Battleship. It’s kind of stupid, but it’s also kind of awesome.
Berg does his best Michael Bay work here, with a lot of fireworks and not a whole lot of thinking. Where Bay takes two and a half hours to develop such a film, Berg only takes two-ish. Both men fall under the same problem, which is working off of a bad script and having severe problems getting the dialogue to stick or at least sound like something that people would actually say. It gets even worse when they downplay the action and try and cut in some emotions and character moments, because it just doesn’t work with characters like these.
Did I mention the buzz balls yet? They’re these killer alien balls that take out potential threats by buzzing on through them. I don’t really have anything else to say about them, other than they are sneaky and force their way into the plot at just the right moments. LAZY!
Battleship is big, dumb and kind of fun, but mostly exhausting and lacking any real characteristics. Its highest realistic achievable goal was to be a decent summer action film and it still managed to sink below that on my radar. They’ve made movies based on less, yet this summer blockbuster still ultimately feels like a film based on a board game.
Battleship – 6.5/10