BATTLESHIP Review

I get it, I really do, but even the most casual of movie-goers seem to have caught on to what "Battleship" really is. First off, it is a movie based entirely on a board game and not one that readily lends itself to any kind of plot. With that in mind Hollywood has turned it in to what else? An alien invasion flick. That is what they know how to do best now isn't it? Why the makers thought the "Transformers" series wasn't sufficient in this area is beyond me especially as "Battleship" tries to dutifully make itself a carbon copy of those films. When I say that movie-goers who only venture out to the theater every once in a while have picked up on the scheme "Battleship" is trying to get away with I mean that it has become extremely obvious that pure B-movie fun has now become even more of a genre for critics to blast as it is apparent little real thought has gone into the production of this film. Some people may let this movie off easily as it is nothing more than an excuse to have a big summer popcorn movie but I can't help but hold "Battleship" more accountable for its actions. It has its moments, sure. It was even able to conjure up some tension at certain points, but the underlying fact that this spectacle was completely unimaginative and lacked originality in every sense of that word would not leave me alone. Director Peter Berg has certainly crafted a great looking film that follows a well worn format to a T, but the best special effects money can buy are no substitute for actual substance or, at the very least, interesting characters. "Battleship" is devoid of either of these and rather than being a pleasant surprise it turns out to be exactly the type of movie everyone expects it to be. A $200 million plus extravaganza that will dazzle your eyes while leaving your brain dumbed-down.

Sam (Brooklyn Decker) and Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) share
a perfectly-lit embrace
While I can occasionally get past the lack of story or plot consistency for the sake of fun, I have felt a harbored kind of dread for "Battleship" ever since the first trailer premiered. What the writers have added to the premise of moving ships around on a grid while the opponent attacks you and you they with strategy and reasoning are a few pretty people and some nice tributes to the brave folks that serve and have served in the U.S. Navy. We are introduced first to Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) a troublemaker who has no ambition for where his life is going while his decorated Commanding Officer brother Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) is always giving him speeches about how he needs to get his life together. One fateful night Alex lays eyes on a beautiful blonde named Sam (Brooklyn Decker) who happens to be a physical therapist and who also happens to be the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Alex tries desperately to impress Sam and when we fast forward a few years it looks as if it has paid off. Alex is now a lieutenant in the Navy, and ready to ask the intimidating admiral for his daughters hand in marriage. Let us not also forget there is a really cool and unafraid petty officer on Hopper's ship that looks alot like Rihanna and Japan Navy Captain Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Nagata) who begins as Hopper's enemy but will clearly become his friend by the end of the film that will somehow resolve the lingering feelings still left from Pearl Harbor. In the opening of "Battleship" we get some quick insight into a group of scientists who have found a "goldilocks" planet that has the capability to sustain life as earth does. They send up some transmissions and lo and behold we get visitors right about the time Hopper needs to prove himself.

The aliens have arrived and they look the same as the ones
in the last movie.
While it may seem like I absolutely hated this film, I can't stand by and say that is completely true as it does offer some nice moments in the 10-minute cold opening sequence that establishes Kitsch's character with a kind of hopeless charisma that is better used here than it was in his box office bomb "John Carter" earlier this year. I wasn't sure I understood the appeal of Kitsch as I haven't seen an episode of the TV-series that launched his career, "Friday Night Lights" though  I have heard nothing but amazing things about it. Here though, Kitsch has a better arc to play and makes a fine attempt to naturally move Hopper from irresponsible youth to a determined and confident adult that is able to make his way in the world. This is a blessing for the film as most of its other big names including Skarsgard and Neeson have limited screen time and nothing much to do when they are present. While most of the action takes place within the Rimpac military exercises that contain 14 Navy's from around the world (which allows for the Japanese and the Americans to work together) there is also the unnecessary subplot that focuses on Decker's Sam and her patient Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales, played by former field artillary officer Gregory D. Gadson who is actually a double above the knee-amputee. Again, this is a nice nod to those who have served in the armed services and all that they have done for the country, but it doesn't necessarily serve the best purposes of the film. While Gadson is fine for the most part, his inexperience shows especially when he spends the majority of the film with an amateur like Decker. Luckily comic relief in the form of Hamish Linklater (who you might recognize from The New Adventures of Old Christine) keeps these two safe from causing too much cringing in the audience.

Hopper relies on Rihanna to take out the alien forces.
What I really don't understand though is why aliens? I can understand that the writers wanted to give an impression of community and collaboration between the Navy's of the world and thus they bring in extra terrestrials to be the baddies, but really? That is the best you could come up with? It just feels so commonplace in today's movie going experience that audiences have become accustomed to it. After last summer's bomb that was "Cowboys & Aliens" you would think that studios might understand that just because you throw something in your movie that is out of this world doesn't mean it will make it a hit. It certainly doesn't always make it a better movie and if anything "Battleship" serves as a clear demonstration of why this is true. I have no problem with having fun at the movies with a product that serves no other purpose than pure escapism, in fact I enjoy many of these summer blockbusters just as much as anyone else. I think most critics do, they are simply afraid to let their scholarly facade down in fear their credibility may be damaged. I can admit to liking a brainless action movie but that is not what "Battleship" is. This is a film that doesn't defy all logic with a wink to the audience and an eye for satire, but it instead takes itself completely serious and is in many ways studio propoganda to make the movie-going droves believe it is okay to take a familiar title and create a film that bears little relation to those memories the inspiration came from. There has to be a line drawn somewhere and when a talented director like Peter Berg resorts to a copy cat of Michael Bay to produce a loud film based on a board game I think I've found where I'll put the pen to the paper.