I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Battleship wasn’t terrible.
Now, I’m not saying it’s great either. It definitely has some issues. But if you go in with the right expectations (low) and are only looking for a shoot ‘em up/alien invasion summer popcorn movie, you may be pleasantly surprised. If you liked the Transformers franchise, you’ll definitely like Battleship.
You have reason to be skeptical; this is, after all, a movie based on a board game and a not very complicated board game at that. The idea of adding aliens to the mix doesn’t necessarily allay fears either. But somehow it all kind of works, thanks to some likable leads and some pretty amazing special effects.
Battleship starts as a story of two brothers: ne’er-do-well Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and his frustrated older brother Stone (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard). Alex just can’t seem to live up to his potential and get his act together. Stone finally reaches a breaking point with his brother’s shenanigans and insists that he joins him in the navy. While on a routine training mission, aliens attack Earth and the brothers are the front line of defense. Then a lot of stuff blows up.
One of the reasons I wanted to see Battleship was because of the cast. I’m a big Taylor Kitsch fan from his days on Friday Night Lights as the brooding and beautiful Tim Riggins. Kitsch’s 2012 is off to a rocky start with the tremendous failure of John Carter, but that is not a reflection on his acting talent. Battleship doesn’t work if you don’t like Alex Hopper and Kitsch does a solid job. When you are dodging explosions, there aren’t a lot of moments for soliloquies and sonnets, but Kitsch gives the role more depth than I imagine it would have in the hands of another actor. Skarsgard is also good as the more responsible Stone brother, though his is more of a supporting role. Liam Neeson gives some credibility to whatever he appears in and thought his character does not get a lot of screen time, he is always fun. I’m always happy to see Jesse Plemons in anything and he is a source of comedic relief in the film (and for fellow Friday Night Lights fans, he does have some scenes with Kitsch. Landry and Riggins reunited. Texas Forever!). While character development is not first and foremost in these types of movies, the characters are a little more three dimensional than you would expect. The movie does right by the Navy; in fact, many of the extras and background players are actual members of U.S. military, including some wounded warriors. And the film definitely makes the Navy look pretty bad ass.
Where Battleship really is impressive, however, is the special effects in the battle scenes. There is a reason this movie cost 200 million dollars to make. They destroy a lot of property in Hong Kong and Hawaii during the course of the film. Though we don’t see a lot of the actual alien invaders, the few glimpses that we do get are more sophisticated than some than I’ve seen in other recent movies and a lot of the budget of this film obviously went to the design of the alien ships. If you like to see things go boom, and who doesn’t, Battleship does a pretty spectacular job of it.
However, if you are looking for a movie with a plot that, you know, makes sense, Battleship probably isn’t for you. I’m no dummy, but I don’t think I really understood everything that was going on. I’m still not clear on exactly why the aliens attacked Earth and what their plans were for the planet. The aliens also seemed to have some criteria in who they attacked and who they didn’t, but that never was mad clear either. And I’m not sure how someone who just joined the Navy and was kind of a screw up got such a high ranking position. Battleship is a movie that you probably shouldn’t think too hard about. Actually, you probably shouldn’t think much at all; just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The dialogue in the movie isn’t particularly great either, which is made painfully obvious in the hands of the less talented actors in the film. Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna, I’m looking at you. Rihanna does a decent job of running around on the ship, but they give her some pretty terrible one liners to deliver that make it painfully obvious that this is one of her first acting roles. I’d love to know the thought process behind her casting. Decker is there primarily for eye candy, but she is also saddled with the weaker storyline of the movie. The movie is at its best when it is focused on the action in the ocean. The stuff that happens on land is pretty forgettable. None of that particularly worked and if they were looking for a place to make cuts to the movie (which is a little long at 2 hours and 15 minutes), that’s the first place I’d make edits.
For what it is, Battleship was actually not bad. That’s faint praise, but considering I went into the screening thinking it was going to be a complete train ship wreck, it’s probably the best that Battleship could hope for. If you are looking for a mindless movie with some cool explosions and special effects, Battleship is more than serviceable. At no point did I consider leaving the theater, so that already makes it better than Dark Shadows. . It’s probably the best movie based on a board game that you’ll see this summer. 🙂
Battleship open nationwide today.