Dan's Review: Battleship

- Battleship (Universal)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson.

Written by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber (based on the Hasbro board game).

Directed by Peter Berg.



There are so may cliches available to describe a movie based on a popular board game like Battleship. Something to do with "sinking" will probably be the cliche of choice among most people who hate it, "A direct hit!" or "Hits the mark!" will more than likely show up in at least a few ads. Put me down for one of the "sinking" quotes if you must, because Battleship the movie should have been torpedoed long before production began. In fact, you can put this review down as one big, white plastic peg of disappointment.

Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a slacker living in the shadow of his successful Navy officer brother Cmdr. Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård). When Alex gets into trouble with the law while trying to impress Admiral Shane's daughter Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), Stone convinces him to join the Navy to straighten up. Flash forward 6 years, and Alex is also a Navy officer, embarking on a multinational war exercise out of Pearl Harbor, under the command of Admiral Shane. Alex's tenure in the Navy is in jeopardy, since he has quite gotten over his penchant for bad decision-making.

During the same time, several planetary geeks are all worked up over a new satellite program that shoots a powerful signal toward a newly discovered planet with characteristics similar to Earth's. At the same time of the Pacific war exercise, an alien race responds to the deep space signal by sending 5 powerful warships to the waters surrounding Hawaii, which is where the uplink towers used to send the space signals are located.

The navies of the world soon discover that the alien warships are hostile (they fire ordinance that look like the board game pegs), and the earthlings quickly rack up huge losses. Call it dumb luck or a convenient plot twist, but somehow Alex Hopper is left in charge of a small, ragtag assembly of sailors cut off from the rest of the world by a giant force field bubble over the Hawaiian islands. Hopper must learn to think more strategically and trust his team, rather than relying on his more aggressive instincts in order to defeat the more powerful alien foe. In case you're wondering, the "G-4-it's a hit!" and "you sunk my battleship!" catch phrases do not appear in the movie, if you can call that a "disappointment."

Battleship has the look and feel of any number of Michael Bay films, especially all three Transformers installments (it's also slightly less believable than Bay's Pearl Harbor stinker). Battleship has all the earmarks of a Bay debacle, including overblown destructive special effects, macho heroes, a hot babe girlfriend, and a jingoistic reckoning for the bad guys. It would seem that Battleship director Peter Berg was doing his very best to emulate Bay, using the same slow-motion hero walk-ups and flag-waving you'd expect from a military recruiting advertisement.

If you know how much I despise Michael Bay's body of work, you can guess how I feel about Battleship.

There are too many ridiculous scenes in Battleship to recount in one review, but my least favorite one has to be the unintentionally funny moment when Alex recruits old retired Navy tour guides to resurrect the actual Battleship Missouri museum (you know, the one used in Word War II and other wars) for a final battle with the aliens.

Another major grip I have with Battleship is its ham-fisted politically-correct setting, in which the American Navy teams up with the Japanese Navy to defeat evil - at Pearl Harbor (Oh, the IRONY). No one in Hollywood wants to offend anyone these days, so the only acceptable movie foe is aliens, even in a film about naval warfare.

Issues like these, along with a large assortment of military protocol violations, make the required suspension of reality in Battleship a little more than I could bear. Even so, many people will probably walk away from Battleship awed by the impressive special effects, but little else.

Battleship also has the unfortunate fate of being the first big-budget action movie released in the wake of The Avengers, which will also keep more than a few people away. Trust me, your 3rd or 4th viewing of The Avengers is a much better value than taking a risk on seeing Battleship.

So, if you want to check your brain at the door and you like movies with lots of cool explosions, Battleship is for you.

Everyone else gets a white peg.

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