Review: Battleship

Directed by: Peter Berg

Starring: Taylor Kitsch,  Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson.

Rating:   Running Time: 131 minutes.

Starting out in 2005 with a scene explaining how scientists have found a planet similar to earth capable of supporting life in a nearby star system and using an array of telescopes on a Hawaiian island and an orbiting satellite, have sent a radio signal towards the planet (named ‘Planet G’) to see if any intelligent life exists there. At the same time, on the Hawaiian mainland, brothers Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and Stone Hopper (True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating Alex’s birthday in a bar, during which Stone, an officer in the Navy, tries to encourage his younger brother, an unemployed slacker, to find a direction for his life. When Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker) walks into the bar, Alex tries to chat her up, eventually winning her affections after (rather humerously) breaking into a nearby closed supermarket to get her a burrito and getting arrested by the police. The next morning Stone, furious with Alex, insists that he be conscripted into the Navy in order to straighten him out.

Cut to present day and Alex, now a Lieutenant in the Navy and dating Samantha, who happens to be the daughter of Vice Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), is taking part in naval exercises with 13 other fleets, when several crafts approach earth in formation, one of them collides with a satellite and breaks up on entry, with the others landing in the pacific ocean not far from the fleet’s position.

Ships including the U.S.S. John Paul Jones, on which Alex is senior weapons officer, are sent to investigate and find a strange looking object protruding from the surface of the ocean that is undetectable by radar, which generates a massive energy barrier covering the island and the surrounding ocean, trapping three ships including the John Paul Jones and separating them from the rest of the fleet. Meanwhile on the nearby islands, Samantha, at a military hospital where she works as a physical therapist, forces a soldier who lost both his legs and now has prosthetic ones, to take a walk with her on one of the island’s mountains. Soonafter, they find themselves trapped when a group of the aliens arrive and start taking over control of the radio telescopes on the mountain. While the few ships trapped in the field must battle against a superior force at sea, Samantha must stop the aliens from using the radio telescopes on land to call for reinforcements.

Director Peter Berg has an impressive movie C.V. to his name, starting out as an actor in televison during the 1980’s (his first appearance on screen was in an episode of the original 21 Jump Street series seen remade recently as a movie), he quickly progressed to acting in mainstream movies before trying his hand at both writing and directing with his first movie, black comedy Very Bad Things in 1998. Since then he has gone on to direct such movies as Welcome To The Jungle (a.k.a. The Rundown), Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, and Hancock, each of which was successful, and competent, but with the exception of The Kingdom, all seemed to all start out great and with lots of promise only for them to fizzle out towards the end. Battleship suffers from this to a degree, but nowhere near as much as previous efforts, especially his last movie, Hancock, which was closest in tone being that it was a special effects laden adventure.

Let’s start out by saying what it is- Battleship, based on the classic children’s board game (no, seriously), put simply is Independence Day on water. There, it’s out of the way, the comparison was inevitable given it’s alien invasion subject and the big budget special effects aspects, and the trailer does nothing to try and shy away from this (if anything it wisely promotes it). The issue is, Independence Day was a phenomenon, like nothing that had been seen before in movies up to that point. It built up hype of momentous proportion, and upon it’s release, while it was a crazy B-movie with an A-list cast and special effects, it delivered what it promised in spades, a hyped up B-movie that while stupid was thoroughly entertaining. To it’s credit that’s all that Battleship is aiming for, and for the most part pulls it off successfully.

You have the usual corny dialogue throughout, the occasional humerous one liners, the a-typical characters who do and say dumb sh*t in the situations they find themselves in, though thankfully, aside from one moment that works in the movie, there is no sign of the annoying kid subplot, or the family pet that seems invulnerable to injury. None of the cast particularly stands out, but in this movie the only reason they would stand out is because they are atrociously bad, even singer Rihanna in her first acting role blends in with the movie and the rest of the cast. Although there are times when the movie seems to be taking itself too seriously, we’re often reminded that it’s not- during the weaker moments of the movie, when set on land, we’re constantly reminded of this, one point, after realising the aliens will only have a short window to call for reinforcements before they’ll have to wait a day to try again (using a humerous reference to one of the best alien movies of all time with a line that I won’t spoil got a huge laugh in my theatre), and a character says “well then let’s see if we can give the world another day”, to which another character says “really, who talks like that?!”. Thankfully though, at no point does anyone utter the line “You sunk my battleship!”.

The alien designs seem fairly well thought out for the most part, though there is an odd thing of an alien spacecraft that appear to hop accross the surface of the ocean like a mosquito does accross the surface of a pond rather than fly, and seems to be there purely to allow for a sequence referencing the original nature of the board game on which the movie is based – a fairly enjoyable and easy to follow sequence where at night, with no means of locking onto the ships by radar or visually, the crew use a sort of echo location from tsunami warning buoys that monitor water displacement, so they can blindly fire at them by calling out buoy markers on a grid. There’s also a more than healthy amount of movie cheese with a particularly heavy dose as the crew get to work re-activating a retired battleship to the tune of ACDC’s Thunderstruck, but in all honesty, this was to be expected with this kind of movie.

Battleship doesn’t have anything particularly new going for it, but while it’s not exactly to Independence Day levels, it surpasses the other Hasbro inspired title we’ve seen up to now- Transformers, as a way to waste a couple of hours. Switch off your brains, find the biggest, loudest screen that you can, sit back, have your popcorn ready and enjoy.


Posted on April 11, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. sanclementejedi

    Nice review, You saved me from having to go and watch this. I think I would rather play a game of battleship C-11. lol I might catch this streaming at some point as Independance Day is a bit of a guilty pleasure.

  2. yeh it might be a guilty pleasure

  3. Yeah, i enjoyed it, but i went in expecting it to be independence day-esque, it didn’t surpass my already lowered expectations, it met them.

  4. It was an awesome movie. um it has ALIENS in it, so why whine about things not being realistic? Swinging the Missouri around and blasting the hell out of the Alien ship with the massive Turrets was just awesome… knocking off Skarsgard early was the only downfall OMG OMG! and no The Aliens did not Sink this Battleship! GAME OVER.

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