If you expected this movie to be good, you sort of deserve to be disappointed. If you expected the film to be so-bad-it’s-good, you should also steel yourself against the harsh reality of mediocrity. In truth, Battleship is probably as steadfastly average as any blockbuster produced over the past 5 years, going so far as to eschew what could’ve been a classic line reading of “You sank my battleship” from Liam Neeson (no doubt because someone at the higher levels felt it was “too cheesy”) while adding an entire alien race that never existed in the board-game (probably because Aliens are the new Vampires). What could’ve maybe, possibly, potentially been an impetus for a cat-and-mouse naval war epic is instead the kind of Transformers clone that would make Michael Bay smile at his evident superiority. In a lot of ways, I feel bad for Taylor Kitsch, because 2012 could have easily been his year to win it all and instead he’s landed in two box office bombs. On the other hand, when your agent hands you a script for a movie titled Battleship that is being produced by Hasbro Toys… you do have the ability to turn down the job. He’s probably the best thing about the movie too, though the odds that’ll keep his feature film career afloat at this point are pretty slim.
Where did they go wrong? Well… it all starts with an alien race called the __________. Yes, that’s right. We never learn their name… or their reason for coming to earth, other than us managing to “ping” them with a satellite signal. Their design is probably the only thing vaguely original about them, so I won’t spoil their few interesting features here. Their suits, on the other hand, look like they were recycled from any of the first-person sci-fi videogames on the market today. Because they have no motivation we can discern, the destruction they cause becomes wholly uninteresting and uninvolving. When you don’t know what the stakes are, except apparently world annihilation and resource consumption (guesses based on other movies where the baddies have similar strategies) it means that you don’t really care about, well, anything. Where The Avengers managed to make the destruction of Manhattan the kind of emotional spectator sport that leaves the audience cheering, Battleship just sort of sits there, perfectly adequate in its visual splendor, but lacking any weight or substance.
On the acting side, the surprise here is Rihanna, who manages to deliver all of her lines with a natural, spontaneous energy that you believe she might’ve even done some improv training for the role. Her and Kitsch have a few fun exchanges, and it’s clear that most of the humor came from the actors themselves, and not from the lackluster dialogue. Brooklyn Decker, on the other hand, is both gorgeous and competent, distinguishing herself from
a long line of action movie babes who can’t believably figure out how to rub two sticks together let alone fire a gun. When I say that the fate of the world rests on her, a nerd, and a legless soldier kicking ass on a mountaintop satellite research station while her boy’s out at sea, I’m not exaggerating, and she made the most thanklessly shallow character something to root for. Also she’s really hot. Like. Dear god.
So what could have saved the movie apart from more Brooklyn Decker in less clothing? Starting with an enemy that modern military technology might have had a shot at beating wouldn’t have been a bad start. Or having Liam Neeson in more than ten minutes of the film. Or not ripping of Pirates of the Caribbean’s ludicrous maritime maneuvers. Or throwing the current script out and starting again from scratch. Looking back at the product itself, all of these seem like perfectly viable options. Instead we have yet another Universal Pictures flop, and with no Fast and the Furious sequel in the queue for the summer, their stock is looking pretty rocky right about now. Maybe Snow White and the Huntsman might be enough to turn them around, but I’m not exactly holding my breath. See it if there’s really nothing else playing, or do yourself a favor, and just go see The Avengers again. You know you want to.
Based on the classic Hasbro naval combat game, Battleship is the story of an international fleet of ships who come across an alien armada whilst on a Naval war games exercise. An intense battle ensues over sea, land and air. What do they aliens – known as ‘The Regents’ – want?