Director: Peter Berg
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Home Video Release Date: August 28, 2012
North American Box Office: $65.2 Million
Battleship Delta Productions, Bluegrass Films, Film 44, Ponysound, Hasbro, and Universal Pictures.
Written by: Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber.
★1/2 (out of 5 stars)
I was right there with everyone. Laughing, snickering, making jokes about the cinematic version of a childhood board game that no one ever possibly expected could be converted into a feature film. Friends, fellow film critics and I speculated as to who would utter the line, “You sank my Battleship!” The trailer induced laughter. Is that Rihanna…in this? And…aliens!?!?!? Where did those come from?!? Oh yes, we all had great fun mocking the mere concept of a Battleship movie. As its release date drew closer, a strange curiosity seemed to form about what all of this was going to turn out to be.
Now that we have Battleship the film…all the mockery was justified. Not only is Battleship a bad film, but it is a aggravating mix of pseudo-comedy, alien invasion cliches, stunted dialogue, massive explosions and special effects, and shameless pandering. Running 131 unyielding minutes, Battleship is a Michael Bay-inspired film. And if you love those Transformers films, well then stop reading, Fandango your tickets, and go waste a day at the multiplex. For everyone else, let’s continue…
Battleship opens with an elongated prologue that introduces us to brothers Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) having drinks at a local watering hole. Alex is a ne’er-do-well and content to live his days sleeping on his brother’s couch, working or not working, and just coasting through life. Stone, however, is a highly respected Naval commander who has reached his wits end with taking care of his brother. As they share drinks, Alex sees a gorgeous woman enter the bar and Stone recognizes her as Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), the daughter of his Commanding Officer, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). The dim-witted and/or headstrong Alex attempts to pick up Samantha, who is rebuffed by the bartender when she asks for a chicken burrito. Alex attempted to impress Samantha and proceeds to get her a chicken burrito – by breaking into a convenience store, stealing the burrito, and then getting tased by the police. It’s love at first sight.
Flashing forward several years, Alex not only is ready to propose to Samantha, but he is a Naval Lieutenant, forced to join the Navy at the behest of Stone. Alex is reviled by Samantha’s father and retains much of his idiocy. Apparently all these years later, Alex still doesn’t understand how life works and with Naval RIMPAC exercises set to commence in Honolulu, Alex gets into a brawl with Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), an officer with the Japanese forces on the island. Alex’s behaviors continue to escalate and lead towards his facing a likely discharge at the conclusion of RIMPAC and a return to shore.
In concert with all of these human interactions, we learn that in 2005, NASA discovered a planet that embodies all of the same conditions found on Earth. Curious as to whether it has or can sustain life, NASA reaches out to the planet from a top secret communications center in Hawaii. As RIMPAC events continue, coincidentally NASA picks up strange formations on the tracking systems. The formations are advancing fast, traveling in a fleet, and the government learns of NASA’s reaching out. Unsure and fearful of what is imminent, the top secret communications center is contacted and its lead researcher, Cal (Hamish Linklater), is advised that he should take cover.
And then it…is…on. Five spaceships arrive, with one breaking apart and literally slicing through Hong Kong, while the remaining four land near where RIMPAC exercises are taken place. Efforts are made to communicate which result in one of the ships enacting an impenetrable force field around the Hawaiian Islands, trapping naval ships, and essentially declaring an act of war. But why are they here? And what will our ramshackle Alex do when circumstances lead to his being forced to lead a ship in a time of alien/human war?
And where was all of this in my “Battleship” game box?
Battleship is directed by Peter Berg, a former dependable character actor who despite some notable successes as a director and producer (“Friday Night Lights”, The Rundown, Hancock) has taken a project far too big in scope and size. Berg completely adopts the Michael Bay-style of filmmaking with Battleship, and the film is atrociously overlong, in love with its volume and visual effects, and completely lost in terms of focus. For all the time spent on introducing us to Alex and Stone and Alex and Samantha, Stone disappears abruptly and Samantha is relegated to walking around on Oahu with the affable below-the-knee amputee named Mick (Gregory D. Gadson). Supposedly on a hike, their scenes are absurd, as they seem to be walking in the same exact spot every time we see them, with unpolished first-time actor Gadson conveying more character and emotion than Brooklyn Decker could ever think to muster.
But more than that, Battleship just looks and feels so senseless and I have rarely been so disinterested in a movie playing out before me. Taylor Kitsch follows up a boring John Carter with an even more turgid affair and Kitsch is rapidly proving that he may be a 6-pack of abs and nothing else in terms of his film career. Alexander Skarsgard seems completely miscast as Alex’s brother and in a scene early on where he lambasts his brother, people were laughing at the talented Skarsgard. Rihanna’s much talked about feature film debut is adequate, but she and much of the rest of the cast are given nothing of any substance to say. Screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber (RED) either gave up or had their screenplay severely dumbed-down as Rihanna spends nearly her entire screen time uttering phrases not dialogue, and throughout Battleship, once the aliens arrive, rational conversations fly completely out the window. No one utters coordinates or announces “Hit” or “Miss”, but in all honesty, an actual cinematic version of the board game would be much more preferable to endure.
I am a “glass half-full” moviegoer, meaning that I cling to a hope and belief that any film will be decent, entertaining, and palatable. Battleship drained my will as soon as Alex attempted to win the heart of Samantha by way of stolen chicken burrito. That I still had 120-125 minutes of movie to withstand is torture and punishment no one needs to endure. My headache leaving the theater reminded me that the sound was overly loud and incomprehensible, the story idiotic, flat, and appealing only to the lowest common denominator. Worse of all, Battleship plays everything completely serious with nary a nod or a wink to its board game origins.
Perhaps the references are there and I simply missed them. Battleship sunk. I surrender.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- You are a glutton for punishment and money is of no concern.
- As a fan of Rihanna or Taylor Kitsch, you must hear or see everything they do.
- Michael Bay’s Transformers films are awesome in your view and another Bay-style film is what you’ve been waiting for.
- Please see above.
- At 131 minutes, the film is a waste of everyone’s time. With this script, however, 13 minutes would be a waste of everyone’s time.
- Why they had to play this so seriously and not have more fun with it I will never know. A few well-delivered lines by Hamish Linklater notwithstanding and a couple of decently shot action sequences aside, this is as bad as you feared.