I remember the exact moment that I heard Battleship was going to be made, based on the classic game of naval warfare. I was at the Tivoli, before a movie started, and I couldn’t help but to laugh at the idea. Sure, they took another great Hasboro property and turned it into a successful franchise – but Transformers is different. They have lovable characters, giant robots transforming into cars and planes, and a history of television shows to build off of. What does Battleship have? A handful of boats, and white and red pegs. But to my disbelief, they actually turned it into a pretty decent action movie.
Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is an all-around screw up. From the start of the film, we see that he’s a troublemaker and doesn’t really have a care in the world. His brother Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård) has a successful naval career and is making something of himself – wishing he could say the same about his brother. After a drunken attempt to impress a beautiful blonde bar patron named Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), Alex runs into trouble with the law. In the morning, Stone tells him that he is wasting his potential, and that he is sick of just standing by and watching. He gives his younger brother one option – to join the Navy and get his life back on track. During the annual Naval games, standard exercises turn into actual warfare as an alien force touches down on Earth.
The first 20 minutes or so of the film are necessary to set the story, but are pretty boring. The dialogue is poorly written and the acting is just not good at all. I may be alone here, but I really enjoyed Taylor Kitsch in John Carter. I thought the film was underrated, and I found his character extremely likable. But in Battleship he just seemed monotone and dull. Every line that comes out of his mouth has no emotion, no matter how hard he tries. They may as well have put Channing Tatum in the lead – at least people know who he is. Alexander Skarsgård was also pretty bad – but I’m not sure if it was him, or the material. There isn’t much you can do when you are given bad writing and poor direction. Rihana wasn’t terrible, and actually came off more likable than I thought she would – but still nothing to write home about. The only actor who did a decent job with what he was given is Liam Neeson – who is probably in the film for a total of 15 minutes, unfortunately.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. If you are going to see Battleship, you probably aren’t expecting to see any Oscar-winning performances or best screenplay candidates. Let’s get to the good stuff.
Once we actually get onto the battleships, and the Aliens get to Earth, the action starts and doesn’t let up until the end. This is where the film really excels. The warfare between the massive naval destroyers and the Alien ships is awesome. There is never a lack of explosions, gunfire or fighting while we are at sea. Most of the film takes place on the Ocean, and the special effects are quite realistic. Everything from the ships to the explosions make you feel like you are right there in the middle of the battle. This is definitely the type of movie you want to see in the theater, and at one with good picture and sound.
I will give the film credit for some of it’s writing. They actually managed to pull of some pretty clever things, while keeping the dialogue from getting too cheesy. The whole time leading up to the movie, I was wondering how they would pay homage to the board game. I had hoped it wouldn’t be through hokey lines like, “You sunk my battleship!” Luckily they refrained. But there were parts in the film where they actually played real life battleship by cleverly using buoys and their computer system. And they also actually designed the alien’s missiles to look like pegs from the game. Two very clever references, yet very discretely placed.
The film actually uses real Navy and Army veterans for many of the actors, which was a really cool choice. You can definitely tell who the vets are compared to the trained actors, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that they did it is great, and it works really well in the parts they used them in.
There is no doubt that Battleship has it’s problems. But you also have to keep in mind what type of movie it is aiming to be. It’s based on a 1967 board game for crying out loud, so you have to give them credit for pulling off what they did with it. I went in with low expectations, and actually left having had quite a fun time. The action is excellent, and the pacing is fast and relentless once it get’s going. The explosive fight scenes are what really make the movie, and let us see these massive ships in a way we have never seen them before. The film gives a positive look at the men and women of the Navy and our armed forces, and also reminds people that heroes like this really do exist.
Battleship is a B-