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Film review: Battleship
Film work details
Writers: Eric Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, others
Director: Peter Berg
Production companies: Battleship Delta Productions, others
Distributors: Universal Pictures
Hasbro's strategic board game gets a sci-fi facelift with this Universal Pictures production from director Peter Berg. The action will pit a small fleet of naval ships against an alien force intent on enriching Earth's valuable assets to ensure their survival. Taylor Kitsch (Wolverine) and True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard star alongside Liam Neeson, Rihanna, and Brooklyn Decker
Genre: Sci-Fi, war, action, adventure
Age rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action, destruction and mature language
Reviewer rating: 3 & 1/2 Popcorns out of a possible 5
Background: Some years back NASA scientists discovered a planet very similar to Earth beyond our solar system. In the hope of contacting intelligent life NASA transmitted to this planet a satellite-birthed communications signal from a Hawaiian base.
Meanwhile, in a bar somewhere in Hawaii two brothers are out for the night – Navy commander Stone Hopper and his slacker younger brother, Alex. At the end of their evening an attractive blonde catches Alex’s eye. The blonde is disappointed that the bar grill is about to close and she can’t get a burrito. Alex makes an attempt to impress her by stealing one and in the process is tasered and arrested by cops. Later, Alex is given down the road by Stone, who demands his trouble-incurring brother sign up for the Navy.
Current events: Alex is now a lieutenant and TAC officer on the USS John Paul Jones, a Navy destroyer, while Stone has moved up to become the commander of the USS Sampson. Even though Alex has attempted to leave his rowdy ways behind him, he is still a maverick. This attitude is about to get him tossed out of the Navy, yet not all is looking grim because he’s dating the same blonde he had stolen the burrito for. This woman -Samantha Shane- turns out to be the daughter of Admiral Shane and Alex is nervous about asking this intimidating commander for Samantha's hand in marriage.
At this junction five alien ships have responded to the signal NASA sent out. They come to earth, packed to the hilt with an arsenal of devastating high-tech weaponry far superior to practically any made by man. Suffice to say, their agenda is not one of peace. One of the alien ships collides with an orbital satellite and crashes. The other four converge over the Hawaii islands and bordering seas, where they create a force field that prevents human airships from entering. Along with civilian towns, suburbs and military compounds captured within this force field is a small isolated NASA base. It is here the interplanetary transmission had been sent launched years before. Additionally the USS John Paul Jones, the USS Sampson and a visiting Japanese destroyer are also detained within the force field.
My reactions to Battleship are strongly contradicting. Components of it left me satisfied while others sorely disappointed.
What this film had going for it:
To be honest Military Action is not one of my favorite genres, but this one had the favorable spice of some good Sci-Fi mystery blended in. This combination made for a nicely dark storyline. The audience never really got to understand what compelled the aliens, but there is no doubt their intention is bad.
The most exhilarating part of the story happens when the tie-in with the premise of the Battleship game is brought in. If you’re a fan of the game this component is worth every cent you spent on a ticket.
Fantastic special effects and CGI artistry
From artillery explosions to the alien technology, all around superb.
The music of one of the best heavy metal bands of all time
AC/DC rules. I need not say more.
What this film had going against it
Numerous story elements borrowed from other movies
The script writers of Battleship obviously watched a lot of military-maverick-who-wins-redemption themed movies because practically every relationship element in this movie has already been done. Think The Midway, An Officer and a Gentleman, Top Gun, and Tora, Tora, Tora! Except for the addition of a gutter-mouthed female seaman we’ve seen these same soap realationships done and redone. The writers even gave their hero the abbreviated name of Hopper, which is all too reminiscent of Topper, the name of the maverick bad-boy top gun pilot from the parody Hot Shots!
Clichéd, two-dimensional characters and corresponding dialog
In addition to recycled story elements Battleship audiences are also confronted by some really stale characters. The male military characters are presented as gung-ho tools with about as much complexity as amoebas. The single female military character is your typical kickass urbanista whose only preoccupation seems to be showing off how superior to the men she is in the skills of fighting, cursing and being a gung-ho tool. Then there is the high-ranking admiral, graced with two emotional qualities: reserved and angrily reserved. The scientists are all presented as elitist educated idiots, the admiral’s daughter is a Pollyanna, ect. ect.
Worse, but not surprising, the dialog is correspondingly corny.
Even bad dialog can be elevated when the actors delivering it are using something called skill, and there happens to be several talented -and more so experienced- actors in this film who could have provided exactly this. Unfortunately –and unforgivably- these professionals didn’t appear to give a darn about imparting even a shred of depth to their roles. I was most disappointed with the performance of Liam Neeson as the admimral. This man is an Oscar winner who has appeared in countless movies; even if he didn’t care about the role he could have acted like he did, right?
The only experienced actor in the cast who didn’t appear bored or indifferent to his role was Peter MacNicol, in his portrayal of the Defense Secretary. To the audience’s loss, however, MacNicol’s on-screen time was limited to a few curt lines.
Completely predictable outcome for the clichéd, two-dimensional characters
What with the borrowing of story elements from other films I couldn’t really expect anything different. But still, I had my fingers crossed.
Despite its flaws the positive aspects of Battleship somehow win out. It is a fun movie with an alluring premise, eye-catching graphics and the story benefits all around from the great head-banging music of AC/DC. It isn’t the best Action or Military film ever made, but it is infused with excitement.
Lastly, if you’re a fan of Hasbro's Battleship game you’re sure to find this film a complimentary and likeable effort.
Reviewer rating: 3 and a half Popcorns
This Hub review ©May 22, 2012 by Beth Perry