Consider it Sunk

The success of the Transformers series apparently played straight into the egos of the powers that be in the Hasbro Company, who immediately began scouring their history of popular toys and games to find another that was ready for a big screen adaption.  The initial announcement that the popular board game Battleship would be that next feature made perfect sense at the time.  After all, it’s been a long time since we’ve been treated to an epic naval adventure on the high seas.  When word leaked out that the title warships would be battling an invading alien army, however, the movie’s stock immediately began to plummet.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, the completed movie doesn’t do its reputation any favors.

The movie opens by informing us that our scientists have discovered a distant planet similar to Earth and a massive effort is being put forth to make contact.  We are then introduced to our lead character, Alex Hopper, a talented but aimless screw-up who will no doubt end up getting his stuff together just in time to save us from the alien invaders who no doubt are on their way.  Sure enough, a few years later five unknown objects crash through the earth’s atmosphere and land off the coast of Hawaii, near where a naval war games operation is taking place.

Taylor Kitsch as HopperAmong those first on the scene to investigate is Hopper, who witnesses first-hand the kinds of technology that intelligent beings can create while they are sitting around waiting for us humans to make contact.  The aliens immediately create a giant force field around the Hawaiian Islands and destroy every vessel that takes a shot at them.  They also send an invasion army onto land in order to highjack our communication equipment so that they can phone home for backup.  It’s unclear why they would need to, being that their weapons—particularly the violent, rampaging razor orbs—appear capable of taking us out quickly and with no resistance.  Of course, in steps Hooper into the captain’s chair as he leads the few sailors remaining after the initial attack into battle.  How do they attack these seemingly impervious alien crafts?  Why, create a grid identified by letters and numbers, of course.  F-11!  Yes, sir.

It sounds silly, but actually Battleship could have used a lot more that self-aware cheesiness.  Instead, the movie takes itself incredibly serious and it is all the worse for it.  Aside from the grid sequence, the peg-like weapons of the aliens, and one had-to-be-included piece of dialogue, the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that they were adapting a fun board game.

Had the movie been less full of itself, perhaps the screenplay would have fit it better.  Instead, the serious tone is undermined by dialogue that sounds exactly like the narration the screenwriters might have used to accompany their playing of the board game when they were about five years old.  It doesn’t help matters that much of this dialogue is being spoken by non-actors.  I have the greatest respect for the real-life military members in the cast and give them points for effort, but whoever thought pop-star Rihanna should be cast as a tough-talking gunner might want to consider a new line of work.

All of these faults could have been redeemed, however, had the movie’s action scenes and special effects lived up to modern standards.  Unfortunately, all they are is loud, in every sense of the word.  Director Peter Berg has proved in the past that he can put together a compelling, intense action scene (see The Kingdom), but here he goes so far over the top that even Michael Bay would probably tell him that he needs to calm it down a bit.  There is so much chaos going on onscreen at any one time that it is impossible for the senses to keep up.  As such, the movie’s action scenes will be generating more headaches and motion sickness than they will oohs, ahhs, and awesomes.

There were a few humorous moments in Battleship—I liked the characters that heroically showed up to save the day near the end—but they are sporadically hidden in a vast sea of special effects for special effects sake, and some ugly ones at that.  When a blockbuster summer action movie offers zero memorable action scenes, there is only one thing left to do: send out the S.O.S.

Battleship is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.”  “Intense” doesn’t even tell you the half of it, and there is a good deal of poor language.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Battleship.