Sometimes, you have to lower your standards in order to enjoy something. A date with me, for example.
When it comes to films like Battleship, you know that it won’t be earning any awards for quality, other than perhaps best visual effects. Still, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. I’ll admit, I (as well as most of my friends who went with me) had very low expectations for Battleship. The premise seemed a bit ridiculous, as was the fact that THEY BASED THIS MOVIE ON A FRICKIN’ BOARD GAME; still, Peter Berg is a director I’ve come to appreciate (he directed the seminal Friday Night Lights film as well as the pilot episode of the tv series, and he was also responsible for the underrated The Kingdom). After having seen What to Expect When You’re Expecting the previous night, I wanted to see it if only to regain some sense of testosterone; as a bonus, I also knew the film would feature the USS Missouri (BB-63), the battleship on which Japan officially surrendered to signal the end of World War II hostilities.
The film centers around the life of Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, who starred in the Friday Night Lights series), an intelligent underachiever who lacks the motivation to do anything, unlike his older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), a commander in the US Navy. While celebrating Alex’s birthday at the bar, Alex sees the gorgeous Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) and attempts to impress her by…getting her a chicken burrito. After breaking into a convenience store and getting arrested, his brother decides to get his life into shape by making him enlist with him.
Meanwhile, NASA has detected a planet that falls within the Goldilocks zone (yes, that’s actually a technical term) of a star’s orbit, meaning it’s in the proper range from the sun to possibly support life. In response, they build a communications array in order to send a signal out to the planet.
Flash to present day and Alex is now a lieutenant in the Navy and serving aboard the USS John Paul Jones as the tactical action officer. Serving alongside him are Raikes (Rihanna[!]), Ordy (Jesse Plemons, yet another Friday Night Lights alumnus), and Lynch (John Tui). He and Samatha are now in a relationship and he wants to propose, but is afraid to ask her father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), who, by the way, happens to be the COMPACFLT (Commander, US Pacific Fleet) and his commanding officer. In the midst of the biennial RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise), the largest naval exercise in the world, Alex has a run-in with a Japanese captain, Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), and is told he will face disciplinary action upon the end of RIMPAC, likely expulsion from the Navy.
When five ships suddenly land in the Pacific (well, four; the communication ship collides with a satellite and crashes in Hong Kong), three ships from RIMPAC are assigned to investigate: the John Paul Jones, the USS Sampson (commanded by Stone Hopper), and the Japanese destroyer Myoko, which happens to be Nagata’s ship. As the ships approach, the alien ships throw up a force field, jamming radar and communication, and the Sampson and Myoko are destroyed. Alex’s superior officers are killed in the initial salvo, leaving Alex in command of the John Paul Jones, working alongside Nagata, who managed to survive.
Back on Oahu, Sam, a physical therapist, is on a hike with Mick (Gregory Gadson), a double amputee who appears to have lost interest in life after losing his legs. As the attack begins, they determine the aliens, lacking communication with their home planet, intend to hijack the NASA array in order to contact their superiors.
Ok, so the plot isn’t exactly based on a true story or anything. There are a lot of “what the hell” moments that challenge your sense of reality (because an alien invasion won’t do that), but I think anyone who goes into the theater has to expect that.
The film has some funny moments as well as some suspenseful moments. I noticed some of my friends who went with me jumping at a few scenes. The romance is pretty much an afterthought simply meant to set up some scenes and is never really the focus of the plot.
This film is an action film, through and through, and that is where the film is remarkably successful. Made in conjunction with the US Navy, the film features several of the Navy’s most advanced warships, including the two aforementioned Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers. For me, the absolute coolest part of the film though was seeing the Missouri in action. Although the actual battleship is now in the mothball fleet and a museum ship, in the film, they get the Mighty Mo out of mothballs with the help of some of its old servicemen and use it.
I’ll probably be in the vast minority who considers this their favorite part of the film, but I’ve always been a little bit of a naval history fan, and the Missouri is one of the last battleships in the world, its significance having taken a backseat to aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines. Seeing the ship fire a full broadside (even in a film) is still pretty awesome, and I loved it.
There are some stretches in plausibility, other than the alien invasion. In the end, the Missouri performs a maneuver that I’m not entirely certain is possible (I’d say it’s impossible, but I’ll refrain, as I’m far from a naval expert). Also, as the closest star to Earth is 4.2 light years away, unless the aliens are capable of faster-than-light travel, even if they were to travel at the speed of light, they wouldn’t be arriving here until next year at the earliest. Again, that’s just me being a nerd.
*End nerd alert*
The film does its job, which is to entertain, and it does it pretty well. I went with a group of two guy and three girls, and everyone agreed it was somewhat better than they’d expected it to be. It was also pretty cool to see a man like Gadson acknowledged, who is in fact a colonel in the US Army and has earned three Bronze Stars, the fourth-highest combat award issued by the United States.
Whew. I’ve probably written way more about this film than most people care to read. Bottom line: will this film win a lot of awards and be on a lot of top-10 lists? Doubtful. Will it entertain and be a solid mindless summer action flick? I think so.
Battleship gets a C+/B-.