Review: Battleship


Battleship is a movie where even benign satellite messages sent from NASA to distant worlds are giant laser beams that shoot through space causing lens flares and surround sound action. This is the kind of summer movie that reaffirms the stereotypes of summer movies, and it’s totally OK with that.

If you’re totally OK with that too then read on. If you’re not, then you probably weren’t that interested in the first place.

Director: Peter Berg
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Rated: PG-13

I know what you’re thinking: How the hell did they make Battleship into a movie? We aren’t at war with anyone to have a battle with and current technology really makes the game seem pretty dated (even though it’s still awesome to play). The answer is they did what any person would do when confronted with a brand that doesn’t lend itself to film that easily: Aliens. Of course, you knew that and you probably rolled your eyes at the trailer a few dozen times and thought that it looked pretty dumb. Well, it is pretty dumb, but if it doesn’t care I don’t see why we should.

As far as premises go this one hits all the summer action movie points. After earth sends out a message to an newly discovered earth-like planet a massive alien ship lands in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. It just so happens that the Navies of several countries are performing military drills right where the spaceships land. The aliens put up a giant protective bubble cutting three of those ships off from the rest of the world and that’s when things start going down hill. Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is thrust into command after the aliens sink one of the other destroyers his brother commanded. After the aliens sink the second destroyer, a Japanese one, Hopper must team up with his Japanese counterpart Captain Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) and fight off the three alien ships.

But it wouldn’t really be a complete package if there wasn’t some romance thrown in there, so Hopper, a lifelong slacker before he joined the Navy, happens to be about to propose to his girlfriend Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), who just happens to be the daughter of his commanding officer Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Can you feel the obligatory romance tension? Since the two are in a romantic relationship that, of course, means that Samantha must somehow also be involved in the saving of the earth from aliens as well. Therefore she is stuck on a mountain with Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales (an actual veteran who lost his legs) and comic relief guy (read: scientist who is good at expository dialog).

As much fun as I’m poking at the trite nature of the entire film director Peter Berg actually handles his action well. Anyone who has watched enough movies knows it’s not actually that easy to blow stuff up really well and Berg definitely has the skills to keep an action set piece big and loud, but not confusing and disjointed. Berg keeps things movie along at a good clip, but even more impressive is that the filmmakers actually worked the board game into the movie far better than I thought they would. From the trailers it appeared that the closest thing we’d get to the board game was the fact that the movie had boats in it, but a clever twist on the enemy weapons and a scene where they actually call out the military equivalent of playing Battleship are pretty darn clever.

It’s also good that the aliens don’t suck. Their design is oddly human, but more importantly they aren’t simply evil. In fact, according to Berg, they aren’t evil at all. While most seeing the movie will be fine thinking that the earth is being invaded by evil aliens a closer look actually seems to place the fault for the following two hours of explosions on humanity being a bit of a dick. The closing credits featuring Credence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son, a song routinely mistaken for patriotic despite the fact that it is anything but, only reinforces this notion. Then again, if you actually start taking a closer look at the film it might be ruined by the giant plot holes and lack of logic displayed, so maybe it’s best to just assume the aliens are evil and pump your fist when we kick their invading asses.

I’m not about to say that Battleship moves out of the realm of dumb summer blockbuster, and I’ll readily admit it’s full of some eye-rollingly bad scenes, mostly involving anything that doesn’t have to do with ships shooting at each other. However, for what it is — a movie based on a board game — it’s enough fun to actually work. In the end Battleship will probably be the forgotten film of the summer — not bad enough to be hated, but not good enough to stand out against the rest of the action fodder that’s incoming. That’s probably exactly how it should be.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.