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Battleship

Movie Information

The Story: Aliens land on Earth, and it's up to a ragtag group of sailors to stop them. The Lowdown: Loud and noisy in the vein of Michael Bay, but entertaining because it understands what this kind of loud, noisy popcorn flick needs to be.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Action
Director: Peter Berg (Hancock)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano
Rated: PG-13

I’m not proud that I’m about to defend Battleship. This is, after all, a science-fiction film built around the old board game Battleship, that indulges in the worst kinds of noisy, overstuffed popcorn flick tendencies. We’re strictly in the vein—thanks a good bit to the fine people at Hasbro Toys—of Michael Bay’s god awful Transformers movies here, right down to the gaudy color palette and overbearing lens flares. That being said, Battleship understands that it’s noisy and overstuffed, never giving off that arrogant Bay air of being worthwhile filmmaking. Strictly looking at this movie as compared to those Transformers pictures, Battleship is already leagues ahead simply by not including robots with testicles, or robots who double as racist caricatures, or robots who urinate on John Turturro … well, you get the idea. It’s stupid, but not offensively so.

Yeah, Battleship is formulaic, and silly, and often outright dumb, but it does this in a way that isn’t insulting. People who like alien-invasion flicks full of gratuitous explosions and one-liners will enjoy Battleship. The movie revolves around a very straightforward plot, involving some aliens landing in the Pacific and wreaking all kinds of havoc, and the small group of Naval officers—and their ship—that must stop them from whatever it is they’re here to do. (In one of the movie’s odder choices, it’s never clear what these aliens want—whether it’s invasion or just hanging out). The film proceeds via summer-movie-basic screenwriting, following our protagonist Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) who is thrust into being the ship’s captain after a lifetime of being a general screw-up. Whether or not he’ll finally redeem himself and live up to his potential is pretty obvious from the onset, to the point that it’s borderline painful.

This matters little, since the film’s true purpose in life is to blow up all manner of things. This happens a lot—and loudly, I might add—but the film has enough good ideas, a quick enough pace and is occasionally sufficiently aware of its own absurdity that it works. I can’t quite decide if Kitsch is an honestly good actor or not, but he has a certain gruff gravitas and charisma that lends itself to this kind of matinee hero type. This is something that came in handy in John Carter (2012) as well, and if we want to go back to comparing Battleship and Transformers, then the fact that he’s not Shia LaBeouf certainly helps, too. Beyond the cast—which is serviceable—there are a few small touches that help. After a dearth of alien invasion films, seeing a film that goes a different route—in this case, we get actual spacemen in spacesuits—is refreshing by being just enough out of the ordinary. And in a strange twist, we get a movie that’s actually a pretty good—and surprisingly subtle—approximation of the Battleship board game, in case that is a deal breaker for anyone.

It’s a goofy movie that exists in a goofy world that understands little—and cares less—about science or believability, but still has no shame in being mawkishly sentimental towards our armed forces. And it works just because it’s so silly. Look, don’t go into this movie looking for anything more than some aliens and explosions. But if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, I promise you can do much, much worse. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.

 

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17 thoughts on “Battleship

  1. Ken Hanke

    Please don’t say it was the inclusion of Rhianna in the cast.

    Oh, I hope not!

  2. Justin Souther

    Just curious as to what you feel makes this film 3 stars better than ‘Skyline’ which, as I recall, was basically about “aliens and explosions” as well (so was ‘Battle:LA too)? Please don’t say it was the inclusion of Rhianna in the cast.

    Because Skyline is really, truly terrible. As dumb as Battleship is, it’s at least seemingly made by professionals. Skyline is amateurish, and filled with grating characters played by unlikable actors. And I was never as bored with Battleship Actually, Skyline‘s the perfect example of why Battleship works for what it is.

  3. Dionysis

    “it’s at least seemingly made by professionals. Skyline is amateurish, and filled with grating characters played by unlikable actors.”

    Okay, makes sense. I do remember not caring a bit about the characters in Skyline (save maybe the older Latino man), finding them (as you say) “grating” as well. The one thing I thought was not bad in that film were the special effects.

    Oh, and the aliens had a purpose in their invasion of Earth, which seems to be unclear with this film (per your comment). Nothing worse than an aimless alien.

  4. Justin Souther

    Oh, and the aliens had a purpose in their invasion of Earth, which seems to be unclear with this film (per your comment). Nothing worse than an aimless alien.

    That’s one of the things I actually liked about Battleship, since we’re not stuck with the usual aliens showing up here for resources. There’s lots of references to Columbus coming to the New World, and the problems that caused for the natives. Presumably, the aliens are here to explore, but they’re aggressive enough so that we don’t mind them getting blown up.

    I’m not saying anyone should spend hard-earned money to see this movie, just that it could’ve been a lot worse.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I think they were here to steal hubcaps. They were hooligan aliens. The idea appeals to me.

  6. Dionysis

    “I’m not saying anyone should spend hard-earned money to see this movie, just that it could’ve been a lot worse.”

    Which to me means ‘wait until it shows at the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company for $3′.

  7. Dionysis

    “I think they were here to steal hubcaps. They were hooligan aliens. The idea appeals to me.”

    Yes, I can see the potential there. Maybe next time, they’ll have better landing coordinates. I think the parking lot of the Mall of America would be more fertile hubcap turf than the middle of the Pacific.

  8. luluthebeast

    I guess we disagree on this. I was bored today and caught the matinee thought it was pretty bad. And stupid. I mean here you have a race that has travelled hundreds if not thousands of light years, can project an impenetrable force screen and it’s main weapons are a fancy can opener and what is basically the hedge-hog anti-submarine weapon from WW II? And to light off the boilers like that and get underway that quickly….puh-lease! I still think Asylum’s AMERICAN WARSHIPS is better than this (and 200 million cheaper). But maybe I’m being too picky. It was nice to see the old farts save the day and she did have nice breasts.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I mean here you have a race that has travelled hundreds if not thousands of light years, can project an impenetrable force screen and it’s main weapons are a fancy can opener and what is basically the hedge-hog anti-submarine weapon from WW II?

    That all sounds pretty standard for sci-fi to me.

    and she did have nice breasts.

    The alien? Liam Neeson?

  10. Dionysis

    “you have a race that has travelled hundreds if not thousands of light years, can project an impenetrable force screen and it’s main weapons are a fancy can opener and what is basically the hedge-hog anti-submarine weapon from WW II?”

    While I haven’t seen this movie, your criticism is exactly what two friends of mine who did see it were commenting about. Both said it rendered the whole thing ridiculous.

    I noticed the same thing in last summer’s Cowboys and Aliens…intergalactic travelers from advanced worlds with nifty looking space ships that just happen to use combustion engines for propulsion. Right.

  11. Ken Hanke

    While I haven’t seen this movie, your criticism is exactly what two friends of mine who did see it were commenting about. Both said it rendered the whole thing ridiculous.

    Uh…it was pretty ridiculous from the onset, wasn’t it? I mean I haven’t seen this — and I probably won’t — but to bitch that a movie based on a board game with an added alien invasion is suddenly ridiculous because something ludicrous happens…don’t you see an irony here.

  12. Dionysis

    “Uh…it was pretty ridiculous from the onset, wasn’t it? I mean I haven’t seen this — and I probably won’t — but to bitch that a movie based on a board game with an added alien invasion is suddenly ridiculous because something ludicrous happens…don’t you see an irony here.”

    Of course, but that does not mean that at least some semblence of logic and consistency cannot be applied, unless it was designed to elicite smirks and rolled eyes to begin with. Maybe it was.

    And I don’t think Cowboys and Aliens was based upon a video game, yet the same grating bit of incongruity is found in that film.

    How much more difficult or costly could it be to CGI anti-gravity propulsion in place of solid rocket fuel?

    It’s the little things that count.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know. It’s just not something that bothers me in a film that’s already obviously preposterous.

  14. luluthebeast

    Liam.

    And I know ridiculous science doesn’t bother you, but AMERICAN WARSHIPS made more sense than this thing.

  15. Ken Hanke

    But the point is that’s immaterial to me. The whole quarrel about this kind of thing being stupid or unbelievable or whatever is that it always strikes me like Bob Hope during a spectacularly absurd chase scene at the end of Son of Paleface shooing away the buzzards that land on his car a second time, telling them, “Beat it or you’re gonna make the whole thing unbelievable.” And, after all, Justin’s review already told you, “It?s a goofy movie that exists in a goofy world that understands little — and cares less — about science or believability.”

    Of course, it’s worth noting that I’ve never seen this, nor American Warships — and I’m content to leave it that way.

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