A film review by Craig J. Koban June 1, 2012

 

BATTLESHIP ½j

2012, PG-13, 132 mins.

 

Alex Hopper: Taylor Kitsch / Stone Hopper: Alexander Skarsgard / Cora Raikes: Rihanna / Samantha: Brooklyn Decker / Admiral Shane: Liam Neeson / Cal Zapata: Hamish Linklater

Directed by Peter Berg / Written by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber

BATTLESHIP is a summer action film that’s oh-so-feebly based on, uh-huh, the Hasbro board game of the same name that, in turn, is jam packed with an unholy amount of ludicrous awfulness.  You know the board game I’m talking about; it’s a Naval strategy game where two players attack each other’s respective fleets with specifically targeted missile hits based on logic and whole hell of a lot of pure luck. 

A movie based on a board game is not a new development (see 1985‘s CLUE), but BATTLESHIP is most certainly a cinematic first: it’s the first film based on a board game that senselessly throws in aliens into the mix along with a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model, a pop singer, and an Irish born actor who played Rob Roy, Qui-Gon Jinn, Zeus, and Ra’s Al Ghul.  The latter performer appears in such a pathetically limited amount of screen time that he must have requested in his contract to have most of his scenes excised from the final cut out of sheer embarrassment. 

I can understand Brooklyn Decker (the model) and Rhianna’s (the singer) involvement in BATTLESHIP to help get their film careers jump started, but actors like Liam Neeson appearing in such a ear-splittingly loud, methodically mindless, and unendingly tedious alien invasion thriller like this defies explanation – outside of a hearty pay check with many zeros at the end.  BATTLESHIP is an indescribable lovechild of films like INDEPENDENCE DAY, DAS BOOT, PEARL HARBOR, TOP GUN, and, yes, THE TRANSFORMERS series that cranks up the human versus extra-terrestrial battles to 11 on the CGI and explosion heavy mayhem meter, so much so that, by its finale, you are left less enthralled and entertained than you are numbed into exhaustion.   Viewers 12-years old and under may be taken in with its eye popping spectacle, but the rest of us in the adult world will most likely find it intolerable.  

The film sets up the notion that NASA – in 2005 – discovered a planet with conditions very similar to Earth’s when it comes to supporting life.  Thinking that this planet – dubbed Planet G – may have intelligent beings, scientists launched a powerful signal to it from a Hawaiian communications satellite that, of course, is actually picked up by an alien race that begins to launch a galaxy-crossing mission to take over our planet.  In the meantime, the film spends an agonizing amount of time on introducing us to human characters that, by the time the aliens do land and wage war, are the least interesting entities to populate this film. 

There are two brothers: one is the career minded and disciplined Stone Hooper (Alexander Skarsgard) and his hot-headed trouble-making brother, Alex (JOHN CARTER’s Tyler Kitsch).  Alex gets into some serious trouble with the law when he decides to break into a nearby convenience store and steals a burrito to give to a hot blond woman he meets at a bar, Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) who's upset that the establishment’s kitchen closed so early.  Needless to say, Alex is busted, but the resolute Stone decides that the best thing for his sibling would be to force him into service in the Navy to teach him some discipline.  Funny, I was thinking some lengthy time in the slammer would be better for Alex, but never mind. 

 

 

The film flashes forward several years when Alex is a Naval officer and has had a long, but semi-secretive relationship with Samantha, secretive because her father is a Navy Admiral (Neeson), and if you’ve seen films before with hard assed military fathers who can't stomach their attractive daughters dating societal screw-ups than nothing in this film will shock you.  Before Alex can ask the stone cold and protective Admiral for permission to marry Samantha, he takes place in an international peace building exercise of war games between the U.S. and other nations.  Just when their serene endeavors begin, though, the aliens from Planet G show up, seal off all of Hawaii and the nearby ocean in an impenetrable shield, and begin to launch an attack.  Three battleships remain with the shield bubble with the alien crafts.  Hmmm….I wonder if Alex will become the defacto leader of one of them, take control of the situation, and save the planet? 

BATTLESHIP is kind of inanely stupid as far as alien invasion films go.  The E.T.s in question are generic humanoid looking CGI monsters that are never developed at all beyond the point of wanting to invade and destroy the Earth.  Their motives and end game are never established.  Never.  Not a once.  Yet, the film establishes some shocking and dumb loopholes regarding them: they are able, for example, to travel across the universe to a planet relatively close to the sun, yet it’s revealed that sunlight is their kryptonite.  Uh…okay.  Conveniently, the ocean-spanning shield that they erect cannot be breached with any know human-made weapon, but their ships are vulnerable to missiles and bullets, which begs the question as to why the aliens do not just shield their ships like the do the ocean.  Also, if their home world of Planet G is nearly identical to Earth, then why travel across the galaxy to invade another planet just like it, especially considering that Earth's depleting ozone layer that allows in dangerous solar radiation can kill the creatures on contact?  I give up. 

The film has other cringe-inducingly silly ingredients, like how Samantha is a physical therapist working with a legless Army vet that will unavoidably lead to the crippled war hero being a triumphant hero versus the aliens later on.  BATTLESHIPS’ jingoistic overzealousness is about as subtle as a kick to the groin, not just with the physically impaired vet, but also when it comes to the way it preposterously exploits elderly veterans of other past great wars.  There is a moment when Alex and the survivors need to commandeer a new battleship, which just happens to be a 70-year-old one that now serves as a tourist destination.  Nearby Naval veterans – who look like they should be in long-term care homes – recruit themselves back into service and help Alex’s team get their ol’ ship back into action.  The film gives them an obligatory slow-motion shot of them valiantly walking to the bridge and meeting a new call of duty.  This moment was less inspiring than it was unintentionally hysterical.

How the hell is BATTLESHIP directed by the talented Peter Berg, who previously made great films like THE KINGDOM and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS?  If his mission was to completely sell-out his skills and pride and devolve himself into mimicking the worst habits of Michael Bay - cornball melodrama, terrible dialogue speeches, dumb-downed characters, assaultive editorial overkill, ocular traumatizing action and visual effects, and one-note flag waving patriotism – then mission accomplished.  Few filmmakers with Berg’s proven pedigree have ever aimed lower than he has here.  In the end, BATTLESHIP wholeheartedly disserves its comparisons to TRANSFORMERS (also based on a Hasbro property).   Both films render humans, story, plot, etc. as meaningless blips on their radars and both methodically grind you into a self-loathing fetel position with their nonsensically bombastic noise and ostentatious images.  BATTLESHIP is simply dead in the water.

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