Well, this exists. I still can’t believe they made a movie about Battleship, but they did, and, against my better judgement, I watched the thing. It is not very good, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy myself while watching it. Battleship is a big, dumb (oh so very very dumb) fun alien-invasion movie based off of what was originally a pen-and-paper guessing game. This is the second of the two box office disasters for Taylor Kitsch in 2012 and the acting debut no one ever wanted Rihanna to have. There is also a former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (Brooklyn Decker) and the increasingly stern-faced and action-based Liam Neeson. Oh, and there is CGI. One mustn’t forget the CGI.
Alex Hopper is a Navy man like so many seen onscreen before. He’s undisciplined. He’s a bit of a cad. He’s constantly getting disapproving glares from a father-figure-to-be. He is also never not the smartest person in the room. Not once in this movie is there a more gifted Navy man than Hopper onscreen. If you were to guess that at one point he would be threatened with a discharge for his untamed ways, you would be correct. If you were to guess that he would have a surprisingly heartwarming bromance with someone he originally clashed with – well you probably wouldn’t guess that, but it ties in nicely with the comparison I am about to make. Alex Hopper is Captain James T. Kirk from the Star Trek reboot. To say that Kirk’s emotional arc in Star Trek was original or unique would be farcical, but the comparison works on essentially a scene by scene basis. To be fair to Peter Berg and the people that actually had the hubris to think making Battleship would be a good idea, Captain Kirk didn’t get to make out with Brooklyn Decker. That part of the character arc is new, and I’m sure many a thirteen-year-old boy thanks them.
Liam Neeson is an actor of poise, skill, and class. He also knows how to take a paycheck: he takes a paycheck in Battleship. He plays the kind of role here that is so often portrayed in film by just about every actor above the age of, say, fifty: the disapproving, slightly frightening, father of the hero’s girlfriend. If there is one thing Liam Neeson, or at least the Liam Neeson of the last five years, is good at, it is intimidating, well, everybody. He plays the protective father, who is also conveniently an admiral, and not much else. He does it well, but he was definitely only being paid to have his name put on the poster and his voice in the trailer. But what a name it is.
I don’t know what to say about Rihanna. I really don’t. Her character was probably the closest thing to a lead after Taylor Kitsch, but her character was never anything other than superfluous. Her character does everything, she is part of combat missions, she is a navigator, she may or may not be a communications specialist. I understand consolidating the large support staff of a Navy destroyer into a few key players, but I do not understand the need to use the same character in multiple contradicting roles. Rihanna should not quit her day job, but she isn’t exactly what I would call terrible. But her character definitely is.
There is a terribly predictable subplot involving Hopper’s
bikini-model physical therapist girlfriend and a crippled veteran who she is working with. The pair must confront the aliens or something in order to save the planet or something. It didn’t make a lot of sense, and it was mainly an exercise in superfluity. The acting in the story-line was actually some of the strongest in the movie. It wasn’t actually strong, but it was stronger than most of what we got in Battleship. Aside from the work of Kitsch and Neeson, who are both good in their roles, if unexceptional.
The biggest surprise of Battleship, for me at least, was the fact that they actually incorporated the board game in a legitimately clever way. Seriously. I was pleasantly surprised that the film had devised a way to incorporate the grid system of the game into the story, that actually made sense within the confines of both. Battleship is not any sort of accomplishment for any of the parties involved, but successfully adapting a board game to the screen (or at least successfully adapting the manner in which that board game is played) is something to be commended.
Battleship was very close to being a legitimately decent sci-fi flick. The extraterrestrials were way too humanoid for it to not to be commented on by anybody in the film. The looked like they were only one evolutionary step away from us, sort of like the engineers in Prometheus. An aspect of the science-fiction element that I really appreciated was how, well, not incompetent the aliens were. They had a clear, discernible, and logical plan. Their plan was to send a scouting party of a few ships, seal those ships off from outside influence via a gigantic sphere, and to signal home. The aliens were methodical and competent, they went for infrastructure and weapons, not parks and children. Their plan actually made sense (gasp!), so I would have liked it if one of them actually got a line of dialogue or if we had gotten a reason for either their hostility or ours aside from, “the aliens are bad, kill them.”
The special effects in Battleship are proficient in the same manner most big blockbusters these days have decent effects: they look good, but are oh so very boring as well. Battleship is, in a lot of ways, just Transformers with aliens and naval warfare instead of aliens and Michael Bay. Please note that Battleship is better than the Transformers movies, because, well, Battleship actually has something akin to an actual story. Battleship looks pretty, but explosions do not make up for amateurish dialogue and a computer-generated humanoid figure is a bit different from being an actual character.
What can I say about Battleship that has yet to be said by someone: it is a big, heaping pile of predictability, mediocrity, and unwarranted grandiosity. It has also has gotten an unnecessarily bad reputation. It may definitely be all of those somewhat negative things I just called it, but it is also passable popcorn fare and is enjoyable enough to be watched while only having to do so in a slightly ironic manner. They surprisingly did not sink this Battleship.