I wasn’t expecting much from the new Battleship movie, a film based on the almost 70 year-old game that involves two players in a hit & miss strategy to “sink” each other’s mock naval fleets, and the film is as cheesy and implausible as they come, but somehow this movie won me over and I loved every corny minute of it. It’s a spectacular Saturday-morning summer popcorn movie and 45,000 tons of fun!
If you can imagine a mishmash of the films An Officer and a Gentleman, Top Gun, the Transformers series, Pearl Harbor, Battle: Los Angeles and the Hasbro Battleship game, then you’ll have some sort of idea of the ground that this movie covers. The crazy thing is, I’m not a big fan of any of those previously mentioned movies and yet I was blown away by how well Battleship works.
The story is centered on Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who is an irresponsible ne’er-do-well who joins the Navy (at his brother’s direction) to avoid jail time and to impress the daughter of a Navy Admiral. Once in the service, now Lt. Hopper still can’t seem to stay out of trouble and he’s scheduled to be booted out of the military at the completion of a multi-country joint-military exercise off the coast of Hawaii.
Enter an alien invasion brought on by an interplanetary communication effort that has reached out to an Earth-like planet in another solar system. The aliens track the communication signal back to its source in Hawaii and they send an unfriendly exploratory mission to Earth that arrives in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. The aliens set-up a force-field that separates some of the naval forces from each other and they begin destruction of the military bases and island infrastructure. A battle of wits and naval firepower ensues.
In addition to Kitsch (John Carter), Battleship also stars Tadanobu Asano (Hogun from Thor) as Japanese ship Captain Yugi Nagata, Liam Neeson (Batman Begins) as Admiral Shane, sexy singer Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora ‘Weps’ Raikes and of special mention is real-life U.S. Army Colonel Gregory Gadson who plays a badass wounded veteran, Army Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales. You’ll be cheering when he takes on the aliens, mano-a-extraterrestre.
The extraterrestrials in Battleship wear a “Halo-esque” style of armor, but when exposed they have somewhat human characteristics and they only seem to attack if something or someone is perceived as a threat. I thought the aliens seemed pretty well thought out, but most of this movie is improbable, with very large time/location lapses. Nonetheless, if you don’t think about it too much, it is enormously entertaining.
Although I had my doubts it could be done, Battleship director, Peter Berg (Hancock), and his writers, Erich & Jon Hoeber (Red), do a very good job of incorporating all the aspects of the Battleship game into this film. From the peg-like explosives that the aliens use to destroy the ships, to the force-field barrier that prevents the forces from seeing their enemies and the hit & miss tactics the ships use to find and kill their adversaries, it all comes together in a fantastic and fun way.
For those naval historians out there that are telling themselves, “Wait a minute, there are no U.S. battleships still in active service. How can they have a movie called Battleship, set in modern times?” All I can say is that you will be very pleasantly surprised at the way things play out – you will not be disappointed. This summer’s The Avengers movie has already set the bar high for end-of-the-world style action, but there are some sequences in Battleship that are every bit as exciting.
Battleship is a modern version of an old John Wayne style patriotic war picture, and its star, Taylor Kitsch, even resembles the iconic action hero. I applaud the attention that Battleship pays to Navy vets and wounded veterans from all services, and to be certain, there is a lot of corn, straight off the cob, in this movie. But Battleship knows what it is and embraces its cheesiness with unbridled affection. If this type of thing makes you cringe, then this is probably not the movie for you, but if you can just kick back and enjoy an old-school sci-fi romp, based on an old-school board game, you’re going to have a blast.