Film Review: “Battleship”

by Gordon Elgart on May 18, 2012

Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna in BATTLESHIP

starring: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Alexander Skarsgard, Liam Neeson

written by: Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber

directed by: Peter Berg

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language

Picture yourself as an executive for Hasbro. You’ve made boatloads of money on the Transformers movies, and you want to continue licensing your properties. What could you possibly have been thinking when you decided that making a movie out of the game Battleship would be a good idea? And if you have ever sat across from a friend calling out things like “E4” and being told “hit,” did you ever think “we’re the U.S. Navy fighting aliens!” Did you? Really?

Because that’s the basic plot of the movie Battleship, one of the most ridiculous things ever put on film. While the movie’s reason for existing is questionable, and the story framework is groan-inducing, the experience of watching this movie is actually pretty good. Color me surprised. The pegs are more hit than miss.

Taylor Kitsch stars as Tim Riggins in the first scene, sitting in a bar with long hair, going nowhere, and doing everything but saying “Texas forever.” But then he goes to great lengths to get a chicken burrito for Sam (Brooklyn Decker), gets in some trouble with the law, and is forced by his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) to join him in the navy. Cue the title card.

Flash forward an unknown amount of time, and now Taylor Kitsch is Alex Hopper. He’s somehow become a lieutenant, even those he’s still considered a screwup by everyone. Now in a relationship with Sam, but afraid to ask her naval admiral father (played by a paycheck cashing Liam Neeson) for permission to get married. Then he loses the big soccer game (really), gets into a fight with a Japanese captain (Tadanobu Asano), and is going to be kicked out of the navy just as soon as his boat gets back to shore.

But then, aliens attack. Well, not quite. Aliens land. We assume they’re hostile and start a fight. The aliens fight better and begin destroying everything in sight using technology borrowed from popular video games. They send over Big Daddy, Master Chief, and flying, slicing Katamari balls as well. (Although they don’t roll things up; they blow things up.) They even shoot deadly pegs, in one of the few things in this movie even remotely related to the original board game.

The way they fit in other aspects of the game are handled in such a silly, winking way, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy them. The filmmakers know that the audience is incredulous about the relationship between game and movie, so every time something relates back to the Battleship game, it is met with laughter and cheers. Yet every time there’s a traditional “cheer” moment in the movie, it falls flat. That makes this a very easy movie to enjoy ironically.

What allows me to recommend this movie as a pleasant two hours of your life is that it is dumb on a macro level, but not on a micro level. The premise and some of the plot machinations are cliched, hackneyed, and redundant, like this sentence. But there are very few scenes that are bad by themselves. Peter Berg knows how to direct actors, the effects look excellent, there’s thankfully no 3D, there’s decent chemistry between some of the main actors and the supporting cast (Rihanna!), and the Hoeber Brothers know which classic lines to steal from other films.

This isn’t a “so bad it’s good” movie; rather, a bad movie, so well done that it’s good.

Battleship opens nationwide today.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Christopher Rogers May 18, 2012 at 9:47 am

Yep, money will get made. No shame in a bad good film. That’s what the USA Network is/was for!

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