Film Review – Battleship

Battleship (M)

Directed by: Peter Berg

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Before you scoff at the thought of a movie being based on a board game (and haven’t we all?), remember that Hollywood has already tried this all the way back in 1986 with Clue. While that game had “characters”, a location, some props and a murder mystery, it was still a bit of a stretch adapting it into a motion picture. But with the plot potential of Connect Four, Battleship does leave plenty of room to play around.

Whether or not you think it is the dumbest move on the part of a movie studio or a brilliant marketing strategy (any logo with a pre-existing fan base already has an audience built-in) to turn a board game into a film, no one thought this was going to win any awards. Especially the makers. Keeping their tongue firmly in their cheek, they have opted to go down the big, loud and dumb blockbuster route. How else would they do it?

The relationship between brothers Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), the responsible navy officer and Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), the perpetual screw-up, is tested when Alex gets busted by the cops for stealing a burrito to impress a girl Samantha (Brooklyn Decker). Stone puts his foot down and demands Alex get his life in order by joining the Navy.

Several months later Alex is in the Navy and he’s got the girl (who apparently was impressed with his efforts in getting her a burrito) but he is still a screw up. Such minor dramas immediately take a back seat when, during a training exercise off of Hawaii, Alex, Stone and their colleagues find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion. The invasion isn’t quite so random; a signal had been sent out into space for communication purposes and as it turns out, someone or something was listening.

What follows, save for a few nods to the board game that inspired the film, is a fairly standard aliens-come-to-earth-and-try-to-take-over scenario. The dialogue is lame and the one liners extremely poor (we are treated to “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” twice. Talk about lazy writing). Half of it doesn’t even make sense – why are the aliens here? why are they destroying random infrastructure? etc. This is the kind of film that people should boo off the screen, and yet it is not as bad as it sounds.

Explosions, special effects and other assorted action aside, there is large sag in the mid-section, but what elevates this popcorn flick to passable is the location. Most alien invasion films are set inland. Ships out at sea, at the very least, gives us something different to look at. And no matter how inane the script is, just try not to fist pump during a battle that includes an old ship and its veteran crew. Old guys kicking alien butt is a hoot.

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