Battleship

You can’t really fault Hasbro for trying. After huge success with the Transformers franchise (three movies – $2.7 billion worldwide) and even G.I. Joe (Rise of the Cobra earned more than $300 million), it only follows that they would mine their toy and game arsenal for more movie fodder.

They decided on Battleship. It may not be the most exciting game ever created (“G-4.” “Miss!”) but it makes a lot more sense than a Tinkertoys movie, certainly.

Truth be told, the movie Battleship has very little in common with the actual game, instead more closely resembling a high-octane mash-up of Top Gun, Pearl Harbor, and Independence Day. If you like your movies Michael Bay-style, you’re in luck. If you want a coherent plot, good acting, and an intelligent script, well– you best check the calendar; the summer movie season is upon us.

Battleship is rife with plot holes, laughable dialogue, and more one-dimensional characters than there are ways to configure your Battleship game board. But it’s also big, loud, exciting, and, yes, even pretty fun.

Taylor Kitsch stars as Alex Hopper– an impulsive, immature loose cannon who gets into trouble one too many times and is made to join the Navy by his Commanding Officer brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard). Alex also just happens to have fallen in love with the super-hot daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet.

During a huge multi-national Naval exercise in the Pacific, the sailors trip on a trio of alien ships that instantly start wreaking havoc. After setting up an impenetrable force field around the Hawaiian Islands, the aliens open fire and, without much effort, start blowing stuff up big-time.

(There’s also a very minor subplot about one of the alien ships that crash lands in Hong Kong, killing hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s pretty much forgotten as soon as it happens. Naturally.)

The explosions come fast and furious (and are particularly well done– one wonders why 3D wasn’t used) and the tension keeps getting ramped up throughout. Among the more welcome surprises is that we actually get to see the individual aliens not too long into the fight; and they’re remarkably close to human form.

Turns out the alien ships were just a scouting patrol, and once they decide they like what they see, they get to work hijacking our satellites so they can invite the whole gang. In the middle of it all, though, there’s a bizarrely incongruous scene where alien attack-balls ravage the Honolulu landscape, destroying miles of interstate while sparing the life of an angelic Little Leaguer. Huh.

Director Peter Berg is an apparent graduate (with honors) from both the Michael Bay School of Over-the-Top Filmmaking and the J.J. Abrams Institute of Advanced Lens Flare Studies; he throws everything at us, and while some of it fails miserably, there’s actually enough here to make Battleship a decent opening salvo for the summer movie season (Avengers is in a class all by itself).

The screenplay by brothers Erich and Jon Hoeber is silly, sure– but having the task of adapting a board game into a multi-million dollar flick couldn’t have been easy. Give them credit, though, there’s actually a ten minute section (when the Navy is tracking the aliens by using tsunami buoys) that you’ll actually be reminded of the game. And it’s no coincidence, certainly, that the alien mortars closely resemble the game’s marker pegs.

Kitsch does a solid turn as Hopper; he of course goes from loser to world-saving hero in the course of a day, and Skarsgard is excellent in his limited role as Commander and big brother. Neeson seems to be here just to give the film some gravitas, and Decker is here, obviously, to give the gents in the audience something to look at. Pop star Rihanna is actually the most surprising, giving a pretty darn good performance as a weapons officer.

There’s certainly an requirement that you must check your brains at the door, but if you can just sit back and let the ‘Bay’-hem explode off the screen, Battleship is actually more of a ‘hit’ than a ‘miss’.

And don’t leave early. There’s a pretty lengthy bonus scene (that hints at a sequel) after the credits.

3.5/5 stars