When going to the midnight screening for Battleship there were a few good moments in the beginning that promised good summer popcorn fun if nothing else. But then the previews stopped and the feature presentation began. From then on it was all downhill.
For a movie that sells itself as being about ships blowing up aliens, Battleship takes an interminably long time to get going, possibly because the film’s writers Erich and Jon Hoeber (RED) and director Peter Berg (Hancock) were trying to set up “plot” and “characters.” This would have been all well and good if we had actually gotten real characters, but what we get in Battleship are human mannequin Taylor Kitsch (of this year’s biggest flop, John Carter) in the erstwhile hero role, and the equally blond bland Brooklyn Decker as the obligatory love interest. We get Rhianna and the highly underused Tadanobu Asano as the tokens to add some diversity to the cast. Anyone with actual screen presence is either kept away from the main action or killed off early.
The “plot” revolves around a research team beaming a signal to a Goldilocks planet (not too hot or too cold but just right for life to develop), from a station in Hawaii despite one tech (Hamish Linklater) warning: “This is gonna be like Columbus meets the Indians. Only we’re the Indians.” Sadly, no one heeds this historical analogy and eventually, of course, a hostile alien armada shows up in the Pacific Ocean just in time for an international meeting of naval games. Destroyers (which are different from battleships) are destroyed, force fields are set up, global chaos follows, but of course what it’s really all about is watching earthling ships duke it out with alien ships. BOOM!
Now to be fair, we don’t go to movies like Battleship for great acting or brilliant storytelling but just for good BOOM! so you’re probably wondering how it stacks up on that front. Not bad, but not great, either. Frankly, everything about the alien invaders feels like what we saw before with the Transformers movies. Not so surprising since Battleship and Transformers come from the same company, Hasbro. The best thing the movie has going, is its gorgeous use of the Pacific Ocean and the magnificent boats. It’s practically a walking advertisement for the Oahu Tourism Board. It was also designed to be a walking advertisement for the Navy, hence the unprecedented cooperation the U.S Navy gave the filmmakers.
Interestingly enough, the Armed Forces reportedly refused to give access to the far superior Avengers because they thought the movie was too “unrealistic.” Apparently they were willing to give realism a pass for Battleship, which included recruitment ad lines. I’m not sure it was actually a good move, propaganda wise, considering the incredibly poor quality of material. For all its pretty sets and pretty toys (the budget was clocked in at $200 million), Battleship manages to make a massive alien invasion by sea seem boring. That’s a noteworthy piece of filmmaking in a way, but not one I think anyone associated with this piece of dreck will want to be remembered for.