Battleship is a chaotic summer action flick, complete with over-the-top sequences pitting hostile aliens against a handful of U.S. Navy ships in the Pacific Ocean, but unlike its movie-franchise-based-on-Hasbro-toys predecessor Transformers, the film boasts much more likeable characters and a more tightly written script. Director Peter Berg, along with screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber, takes the simplicity of the game and to this formula adds sinister aliens whose advanced technology makes them nearly unbeatable. The invaders from outer space even use vaguely peg-like weapons, similar to the game, and one sequence features the main characters using a grid system in order to target alien ships they can’t see on radar. Berg also bombards the audience with an earsplitting rock soundtrack and pummels viewers into submission with this visual and aural assault, but for the most part the film is just plain silly in a good way.
Battleship opens with a team of scientists beaming a welcome message to the residents of Planet G, an Earth-like planet in a “Goldilocks” solar system that is perfect for sustaining life. Next, we meet our hero Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a directionless, irresponsible bad boy ruled by passion and reckless emotion. So much so, in fact, that he breaks into a convenience store to steal a burrito for a blonde beauty named Sam, played by Brooklyn Decker. Fed up with Alex’s antics, his brother (Alexander Skarsgard) forces him to enlist in the Navy to learn some good old-fashioned discipline. A few years later, Alex is the weapons officer on a naval destroyer participating in an international war game off the coast of Hawaii, but he’s got other things on his mind, namely asking Sam’s father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Things quickly change, however, when a fleet of aliens from Planet G arrive on Earth and lay waste to downtown Hong Kong. The extraterrestrials then turn their attention to the Pacific, where they throw up an impenetrable energy dome and the game for world domination begins.
It’s a familiar trope seen in almost every big-budget alien-invasion summer blockbuster -- they always come from a distant planet with their megaships and their force fields and their crazy weapons. There’s massive property damage and death bringing the residents of Earth to the brink of extinction, but then the hero (in this case, Taylor Kitsch’s character) exploits a tiny little glitch in the alien technology and saves the world. Berg makes far better use of Kitsch in this film than director Andrew Stanton did in the recently released John Carter, perhaps due to their working relationship from the critically acclaimed television show Friday Night Lights (Kitsch was one of the show’s stars, while Berg was an executive producer).
There’s an unapologetically patriotic undertone as well, demonstrated most prominently in the eleventh-hour shout-outs to the old salts who served aboard the USS Missouri and a sequence involving wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. But these moments seem jammed into an already packed movie, and they leave it unclear whether Berg intended to make an action or war film.
Still, Battleship holds up nicely, and despite the occasional cheesy line here or there, there’s something just plain fun about this film with its massive explosions and unrelenting battle sequences. But hey, isn’t that what you want from your summer blockbuster anyway? And for those of you hoping to hear the infamous line, “You sunk my battleship!” Berg thankfully kept that out. leave a comment --Alaina O'Connor