Let’s get this out of the way first: If you liked Transformers then you’ll like Battleship. In fact, if you were to take the basic effects and visuals from Transformers and mix them up with Pearl Harbor, you’d be close to the sci-fi spectacle and, alas, mess, that is Battleship. But then again, maybe we shouldn’t expect much from a movie based on a simple children’s board game.
One of the core elements of the movie dates back to a film from 1953. War of the Worlds was the first alien invasion film to feature invaders who are weirdly impervious to even our most powerful weapons but ultimately are defeated by the most banal or mundane of ordinance, bacteria or poor anti-virus software. It’s a fundamental challenge: The invader has to be tough enough to make us unsure what will happen, but not so tough that they win. Because where’s the fun in a film that ends with a global extinction event?
Which isn’t to say that Battleship isn’t without its crass, visceral pleasures. If you like big, in-your-face action sequences and some of the best effects that the industry can produce, there’s definitely something to be said for this film.
The story follows ne’er-do-well slacker Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) who we meet as a drunken loser who is then dragged into the Navy by his older brother, Cmdr. Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard). Alex ends up a lieutenant, which works well for the story but is quite inexplicable otherwise given his short time in the service.
Meanwhile, Lt. Hopper is in love with the gorgeous Sam Shane (Brooklyn Decker), who just happens to be the daughter of tough-old-guy-clich√ƒ¬© Adm. Shane (Liam Neeson), commander of the Pacific Fleet. How many times has that “cute daughter of the C.O.” clich√ƒ¬© been used in cinema?
In an impassioned warning against our space communication programs, the bad guy aliens are drawn to Earth by a wide-spectrum welcome message we’re beaming to a far distant Earth-like planet. Well, that’s not smart! The aliens show up, splash into the ocean just off Hawaii just as a huge joint forces military exercise is starting up, and promptly put up a force field that covers the Hawaiian islands. Result? All the destroyers, cruisers and other military vessels are stuck on the outside, unable to help the locals.
The irony of the film’s title is that the Navy has no active-duty battleships. Surprisingly, the filmmakers realized that and came up with an ingenious and amusing solution, though a bit difficult to accept. But it’s a movie, right?
In addition, they deserve lots of credit for how they integrated a grid-based shooting scenario into the film, the namesake of the original board game, of course.
OK. Battleship could have been a lot worse. Instead, from the special effects to the vapid storyline, the big/loud aliens who sure look like they just stepped off the set of Predator IV to the jingoistic pro-military theme, it’s just what I figured it’d be: Transformers 4. If you liked the other Transformers films, you’ll probably like Battleship, too.