Theatrical Review: Battleship

Alex Hopper is a 26-year old young man with no direction in life. On his attempt to impress a girl, he gets in trouble with the police. Alex’s brother Stone, a Naval Commander, lays down the law to his brother and makes him get his life in order by joining the Navy. As Alex and Stone are about to engage in war games, an alien threat comes into play, of course threatening to take over our planet.

That’s the real simple premise to Battleship, the latest Hasbro game and toy property to get the big screen treatment following in the wake of the Transformers series and the first G.I. Joe movie (with another of those coming as well). It’s also the latest film from director Peter Berg, who’s previous films have included The Rundown, Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom and Hancock.

I was curious to see this for a couple of reasons:

1. I thought it had a great initial trailer
2. I’m a fan of Berg’s previous films with the one exception being Hancock.
3. I had the Battleship game as a kid, loved it to death and of course was curious to see just how you’d make a movie out of this.

Now, just as I was curious to see it, I was also keeping my expectations pretty low. It is after all based on a game without any discernible characters and the game itself is pretty simple, so while I was curious I wasn’t expecting this to be as bright a spot as say, The Avengers when it comes to big screen, effects-laden action films. And also, initial word on the street hasn’t been all that encouraging either. But still, I am a fan of Berg’s, so I was certainly open to give it chance and make up my own mind about it.

It’s fortunate that I kept my expectations low… yeah, it’s nowhere near being the bright spot that the other big alien invasion movie out there right now (that of course being the aforementioned Avengers film), but it still has it’s moments. I just don’t expect those moments to be enough for anyone to want to give this anything further than a single look (though I do like this more than I did Hancock).

For something like the approach taken here, which is basically following the same pattern as other big budget alien invasion blockbusters since Independence Day, logic is thrown out the window. I expect that and am pleasantly surprised when it’s actually displayed. With Battleship, there’s no pretense at all that logic was ever even in consideration with all sorts of moments throughout that has you questioning the choice made. What Berg’s chosen to do is basically take the time to make his Michael Bay film wanting to bowl you over with it’s explosive effects and a salute to the military. There’s nothing at all wrong with doing that, it just goes over better when you have some actual smarts going into it as well as some really engaging characters, both of which Battleship lacks.

Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper and right now, this isn’t exactly a good year for the young actor. Personally, I liked him in John Carter though he wouldn’t have been my first choice to play the part (that would’ve been Lost’s Josh Holloway). Here he’s not exactly real likable from the start, though of course he has a transformation during the film. The transformation is by rote though, just being a necessity to get through to it’s end and isn’t quite natural, though really that can be said for any of the characters throughout the film, they’re all cliches that are basically going through the motions. Of note though, this also features Liam Neeson as the Admiral of the Fleet and the big-screen debut for pop singer Rihanna. Neeson’s there to give this some gravity, but honestly it really doesn’t help much, especially considering that he’s only in the movie for about 10-15 minutes total.

But to give the film credit, it does have a great look and I thought the special effects were really nicely done. Steve Jablonsky has supplied a pretty powerful score that certainly helps punctuate the action. To me though, the coolest thing in the movie is a nighttime scene that actually pays real homage to the game on which Battleship is based on. This one scene is the most clever idea in the whole piece, it has intensity and it also brings it out from the players as well. It’s just a shame that the rest of the movie couldn’t have been this clever.

With all that being said, I still had some fun with Battleship but I’ll certainly grant you that it could’ve been a lot better than what it is here. It’s not exactly a recommendation, but it’s not a total loss either. There’s certainly a better option out there now, that being seeing The Avengers either for the first time or a second or third time (I’ve now seen it twice and it just keeps getting better) and there’s more promising things coming down the road. If you’re at all curious about seeing Battleship then certainly do so, but it’s best to keep those expectation way, way on the low side.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

20. May 2012 by Darren Goodhart
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