Directed By: Peter Berg
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Liam Neeson, Jesse Plemons, Gregory D. Gadson, John Tui
Riggins and Landry in the Navy, Peter Berg Does Michael Bay, Transformers-esque, Not Really Battleship; any of those titles are just as fitting if not more so than Battleship.
Back in 2005, after finding a planet similar to Earth, NASA opts to beam a signal to what they dub “Planet G” in an effort to communicate. Also in 2005, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is jobless, has to live with his brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), and gets busted for stealing a burrito. On the bright side, he snags a model of a girlfriend, Sam (Brooklyn Decker).
One unconvincing time jump later, Alex is a lieutenant in the Navy alongside his big bro and under the command of Sam’s father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Alex may have developed into a smart and talented solider, but he’s still got a knack for screwing things up, so after the RIMPAC naval exercises wrap, Alex will likely get the boot. However, before Alex can even get back to shore, something unprecedented happens, aliens attack.
Sure, you’ve got to suspend some disbelief when watching any alien invasion movie, but it’s tough to tell whether or not Battleship even takes itself seriously. The opening sequence detailing this whole Planet G effort is a little on the ridiculous side, but digestible enough to get you on board. Then, the attention switches to Alex who’s drowning his sorrows in booze on his birthday. Things get amusing when Alex meets Sam and his desperation to win her over via a chicken burrito results in a rather comical failed robbery.
Then we get that time jump. Alex isn’t a bad guy, but it’s just flat-out impossible to believe that a harsh pep talk from his brother would incite enough of a turnaround to put him in position to hold a rather high position in the Navy. And aren’t Navy folks super strict? I’d like to bet showing up late to an important ceremony would warrant more than a couple disapproving glares.
And then in come the aliens. Oh, those aliens. First off, the obvious questions; why are there aliens in Battleship? The concept of Alex trying to get back on top and win the Admiral’s girl by impressing him during RIMPAC could have made a fine movie, but instead, we get an absolutely manic robot war at sea. Battleship actually does manage to honor its source material in a somewhat appealing way, but even that minor success proves that the board game was never meant to sustain a full feature.
And we still haven’t even discussed the film’s secondary plotline, Sam’s play date with an Army veteran and amputee, Mick (Gregory D. Gadson). Decker isn’t a bad actress in the least, but Sam is just your typical hero arm candy. She gets her chance to fight back, but other than the fact that she’s gorgeous, we never get the chance to see why Alex falls for her as a person. Gadson, on the other hand, is a non-actor and an actual decorated Amy solider and amputee. It’s pretty obvious he’s never acted a day in his life, but with the help of some appropriately timed edits and a sense of how the character feels, he turns out to be one of the most memorable of the bunch.
As for our men at sea, it’s tough imagining Kitsch ever breaking the Tim Riggins role and apparently Berg will cast Jesse Plemons as the bumbling right-hand man now and forever, but both fill their roles well enough to sell the characters. Well, sell them as best they can when both Alex and Ordy are entirely one-dimensional. The cast of Battleship is really just playing dress up thanks to the fact that not a single one of them has much character development to work with. Rihanna actually manages to stand out as a rough and tough female officer on the ship and Neeson does what he does best, spit out quotable dialogue with his usual gruff, but still, they’re just filling stereotypes.
The one thing Battleship does have going for it are the visuals. There are far too many edits that don’t match for a professional feature of this size, but when it comes to shooting those epic battle sequences, Berg proves he’s got a rather nice touch, staying tighter on the actors to capture facial performances rather than just leave the audience to watch them run around the set. However, he also offers up just enough overhead shots to ensure you’ve got an understanding of the geography.
But still, when you’ve got a plot this absurd and characters that are this weak, there’s just no way to make a reputable feature out of it. The fact that this movie cost over $200 million to make, is an insult to every filmmaker in the industry. For some, it isn’t easy to earn a mere million and I’d like to bet most of those just scrambling for that million would deliver a far more fulfilling experience than this.
By Perri Nemiroff