What It Is
Mostly, Battleship is explosions. In between explosions, and sometimes in the middle of them, it features aliens that look like robots, some super-special-outfitted Naval destroyers, a few shots of beautiful Hawaiian mountains, a brief appearance by Liam Neeson, and an old-fashioned battleship. It also includes some poignant appearances by real-life WWII US Navy veterans. And oh yes, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker.
All this is to say that Battleship works very hard to offer something for everyone, or at least something for its highly prized and profitable demo, 13-35-year-old boys. It’s also to say that the plot in Battleship is its least important component.
Thus: Long-haired, competitive, and hot-tempered barfly Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) regularly disappoints his older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), a Navy commander: he’s introduced doing just that, breaking into a convenience store to get a burrito in order to impress a pretty girl, Sam (Decker). It happens that she’s the daughter of Stone’s admiral and so Alex’s antics threaten his older brother’s career. He makes what seems an utterly illogical decision to force Alex to join up. A couple of movie minutes later, Alex is a short-haired, still competitive lieutenant on one of the destroyers engaged in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest multi-national maritime exercises, here held off Oahu. As these range from ships’ maneuvers to soccer matches, Alex has a couple of opportunities to disappoint Stone again, first, when he loses the US soccer team’s match against Japan — earning the disrespect of Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), a rival who will, you know, become his best friend — and second, when the ships run smack into an alien invasion.
The movie spends a couple of minutes setting up for this invasion, cutting among a team of scientists, including Nervous Nerd Cal (Hamish Linklater), send a communication into space, apparently provoking the aliens — lizard-like bipeds who dislike sunlight — to arrive with lots of weaponry, suggesting that they mean to blow up everything. Alex finally sees that cooperation can be productive (in competition against a common enemy), and so he works with Nagata, communications officer Weps (Rihanna), and a baby-faced boatswain named Ordy (Jesse Plemons, who starred in director Peter Berg’s TV series, Friday Night Lights). At the same time, the US Secretary of Defense (Peter MacNicol) complains and makes snide remarks about assorted errors. And, because summer blockbusters need to show girls in shorts, while Alex and his team sort out the best way to attack the much better equipped aliens, Sam (who’s a physical therapist at the local vets’ hospital) is caught out hiking on a mountain with her latest patient, Mick (played Gregory D. Gadson, a bilateral above-the-knee amputee injured in Baghdad in 2007).
The multiplying plots make for plenty of cutting around, as the movie overlooks some basic logic issues, having to do with what the aliens might want. The human officers make a few guesses, thinking, for instance, that the aliens are building a satellite signal array on Oahu to call in reinforcements (though it’s not clear why they need them), or that they can hit the aliens’ gargantuan water-hopping ships by playing a kind of “Battleship” board game on screens, via water-displacement readings (the aliens can elude conventional radar, of course).
Why It’s Fun
The explosions are loud. The soundtrack is loud. The action is hectic. The aliens are a lot like the bad robots in Transformers. It’s not in 3D.
Who’s Going To Love It
Viewers looking for a science fiction action picture, with music by ZZ Top and AC/DC, Utterly nonsensical causes-and-effects, and precious little to do with the game version of “Battleship,” may be entertained. Viewers looking for a movie with a plot, clever dialogue or maybe just an idea, will be disappointed. (Sample dialogue, selected randomly: “Stay frosty!”, “Sir! I can’t explain this!”, “That’s a head stomper!”) Viewers who have little patience for repeated cuts from a special effected boom to a reaction close-up will be very disappointed.
What To Be Aware Of
Alex fights with a range of opponents. He’s pretty brutally tased by the police; he gets slammed in the head on the soccer field, so his face is bloody; he fights with Nagata in the head [bathroom]; and he fights with aliens in a number of ways, mostly by telling other team members to “Fire!”
Some of the aliens’ gizmos are daunting, including missiles that arrive at targets like metal-piercing canisters, then blow apart whatever they’ve hit, as well as giant wheels outfitted with blades and sparks that plow through every sort of surface, from asphalt to concrete to ship hulls.
Some skimpy clothing on Sam, in particular during a make-out scene on the beach with Alex.
Minor product placement during early scenes on the island, including Coke Zero.
Language includes “damn,” “hell,” “bullshit,” and a couple of almost-bad-words, as when someone says “motherf...!” and a loud noise covers over the rest of the word that everyone knows he’s saying.
2 out of 10
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson
Studio: Universal Pictures
US General Release: May 18, 2012
UK General Release: April 11, 2012