Movie Review: Battleship 2012
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Brooklyn Decker, Gregory D. Gadson, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNichol
I'll go out an a limb and note that Battleship is not the cinematic atrocity the trailers made it out to be; it's not even one of the worst films of the year. It's just really, very stupid.
How stupid is this movie? Take the hero's introductory scene. His name is Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch). He is celebrating his birthday in a bar with his Navy officer brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård). Suddenly, a bodacious, blonde physical therapist walks in who catches Alex's eye. Her name is Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), who just so happens to be the daughter of the admiral of the fleet (Liam Neeson).
Alex wants to impress the girl. How does he plan to do this? When she asks the bartender for a chicken burrito, he tells her “the cafeteria's closed,” and refuses to serve her. So, Alex gets the bright idea to break into the convenience store across the street and steal her one. We get a security camera shot of Alex crashing through the roof of the convenience store, and for a second there, I was reminded of one of my favorite television shows, The World's Dumbest Criminals.
The cops are called, Alex is tased (but, miraculously enough, avoids going to jail), and somehow manages to win Samantha's heart. Stone grills him out the next morning, and tells him that he's going to join the Navy like he did, or else! Of course, Alex joins the Navy, and of course, because he's such a loose cannon, he's threatened with the possibility of getting kicked out.
Nearly forty minutes pass before the aliens finally show up. They're responding to a radio signal the humans unwisely sent to the Earth-like Planet G, and right from the word go, we can tell they're not too bright. Five alien crafts are sent to Earth to, I dunno, wipe us out I guess. Four of them fly right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, conveniently enough where the Navy is participating in a joint operation with allied nations.
The other one apparently wasn't smart enough to maneuver around an orbiting satellite, and so crashes into it, blows up, and pieces of flaming debris shoot right smack dab in the middle of Hong Kong (insert some depressingly mediocre CGI effects here).
The surviving aliens set up a giant impenetrable force field in the middle of the ocean, trapping three naval destoryers inside, two of which have Stone and Alex on them. The human's first reaction when they see the aliens is, of course, a military one. “Fire a warning shot,” Stone orders one of his men. Ooo, bad call. The aliens retaliate by blowing up Stone's ship and killing him, leaving Alex in charge of what to do.
Now, these alien beings are a curious bunch. We learn that they only attack when they feel they're being threatened, which is unusual for a race of beings who are apparently bent on world domination. Some of the things they consider a threat are of course destroyer ships firing at them and, for some reason, a freeway crowded to the tee with cars. One of the things they don't consider a threat: A destroyer ship in its path, primarily because the ship's weapons are turned away from them.
Because the ship that crashed into the orbiting satellite was a communications ship, the aliens have to use NASA's communication dishes to send a signal back to their planet and bring in reinforcements. It is here where I pretty much gave up on the film. Are the aliens really so technologically inept that they can't communicate with their planet from one of their ships? Was that one ship really their only means of communication? If so, why didn't they send more than one?
Of course, logic is the last thing one looks for in a movie like this. Big special-effects and lots of action scenes are usually the selling point for a movie like this, yet even then, the movie misfires. Remember the 1996 alien invasion film Independence Day? The alien ships in that film where protected by a force field so strong that not even a nuclear war head could penetrate it. The alien ships in Battleship, on the other hand, are so flimsily constructed that an AM rifle manages to do some heavy duty damage to them. How can there be any suspense when the alien ships are so weak? They might as well have been made out of papier-mâché.
There are a couple of things that do work in Battleship. The CGI effects used to create the alien space crafts are quite impressive, and the action scenes, while not at all exciting, are at least staged much more crisply than they were in the Michael Bay's Transformers trilogy (which this movie bares a number of similarities to). Liam Neeson makes the most of what is otherwise a wasted role, and Rihanna brings some spunk as a tough girl navy officer.
The rest of the movie is a total mess, burdened by wooden acting, cheesy dialogue, and a plot that is all over the map. At two hours and eleven minutes, the movie runs on for what seems like an eternity, and is padded out by inane subplots, like the one involving Samantha trapped on a hiking trail with a legless Army veteran named Mick (Gregory D. Gadson).
The musical score by Steve Jablonnsky is noteworthy not because it's any good, but rather because it's almost jaw-droppingly bland.
Battleship is based on a board game by Hasbro. Only one good movie has ever been inspired by board games before (see 1985's Clue). Battleship is a loud, stupid, and seemingly endless movie, and a colossal waste of two hours. Maybe it can be enjoyed by audiences with lower than low expectations, but even that's not a sure thing.
Final Grade: * 1/2 (out of ****)