Mark Reviews Movies

Battleship

BATTLESHIP

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano, Gregory D. Gadson, Hamish Linklater, Liam Neeson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language)

Running Time: 2:11

Release Date: 5/18/12


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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 17, 2012

This isn't the first movie to be adapted from a board game, but if one knows the game of Battleship, one might be scratching his or her head as to how that game, with its lack of characters and with its repetitive structure, could possibly become a feature-length story. Even after seeing Battleship, one will probably be left scratching his or her head.

The game, as you probably know, involves two players placing five tiny ships on a grid and taking turns calling out coordinates in an attempt to guess where the opponent's ships are located. It's a menial time-waster. If a person is in the mood for that sort of thing, it's a completely mindless waste of time, and, no, I'm not going to make the obvious comparison to the movie, if only because it's too obvious.

Now we have Battleship, a distended and entirely generic movie about a trio of Navy ships (and, if one is generous, the people onboard) that are the last line of defense when aliens invade Earth. Fortunately for the people of Earth, the aliens are dumber than the human characters are bland. They don't even have a logical strategy for the complete destruction of humankind, which, according to every single character, is their ultimate goal. We keep anticipating a major twist in the end to compensate for these creatures' stupidity, like that they only wanted to create peace for humanity by destroying its weapons or they just wanted to give us their cookbook.

That moment never arrives; these aliens are as dense as their armor. Their ships and other structures, on the other hand, seem to be made of the same material as those tiny pieces in the board game. At least that's what it looks and sounds like when any character gets close enough to make contact with them. From afar, they look slightly more imposing, thanks to digital effects, yet unimpressive, thanks to nonspecific design (polygonal blobs of gray on gray).

The story involves Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a young man with skills—so says Navy Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson)—and potential—so says his girlfriend and Shane's daughter Sam (Brooklyn Decker), who is unbelievably impressed with his willingness to drunkenly commit multiple misdemeanors to get her a microwaveable chicken burrito. He's also irresponsible—so says his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård)—and stubborn—so says the announcer at the soccer game Alex single-handedly loses by taking and blowing a penalty kick after being kicked in the head.

Yes, it's one of those stories that runs to and fro with no distinct purpose, like a dog in a room full of jingling keys. After the aliens crash into the Pacific, where Alex, Stone, and a bunch of broad or indistinguishable petty officers are participating in naval exercises, the screenplay by Erich and Jon Hoeber goes from Hong Kong to the depths of the ocean and from the outer reaches of space to a board room in Washington, D.C., where men in suits and uniforms rehash key plot points for us.

The aliens surround the Hawaiian Islands in a giant force field and attempt to use NASA's communication dishes, which were used to contact the planet from which the aliens come, to bring reinforcements, which is, of course, exactly like the board game. Alex finds himself in command of one of the Navy's destroyers after the deaths of the two people ahead of him on the command chain (How does this guy, who is repeatedly reprimanded for being a screw-up, get that high of a rank, anyway?), while Sam, a physical therapist, finds herself trapped on a hiking path near the massive array with Mick (Gregory D. Gadson), an Army veteran who lost both legs in combat. The script, made up mostly of inane dialogue we've heard countless times before (The curious "kiss the donkey" non sequitur is a noteworthy exception), makes a "cyborg" joke about him that is as bad as it sounds.

The aliens orchestrating the decimation of Earth are humanoid creatures with lizard eyes (making them susceptible to light, which makes no sense given that they come from a planet exactly like Earth) and spinning spheres of death (again, exactly like the board game) that they send out to destroy things that they consider a threat, like a freeway and the cars on it. The list of things they don't consider a threat includes a destroyer in their path, because its guns are turned away from them. Whatever their plan is, it's terribly, laughably executed.

Also laughable is the one scene that does come directly from the board game. After a long explanation to justify the connection, the crew makes a grid on a computer monitor and fires missiles at different coordinates where they believe the alien ships are located ("It's a miss!"). If you think that must be the most ludicrous part of Battleship, keep in mind the climax involves Navy vets (of the "Chekhov's" variety) who apparently have nothing better to do than spend day after day onboard an old battleship.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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