Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Cast: Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano
A joint naval exercise gets interrupted after a science experiment sending out a signal into space unexpectedly calls to Earth the first wave of an alien invasion force.
I know what you’re all thinking: “This is the movie based off the Hasbro board game, it has to be terrible right?” Surprisingly enough, I don’t think it’s as bad a movie as most people would think or, for those who have seen it, as bad a movie as they have pegged it. That isn’t to say it’s a good film by any standards, but there is enough that is done in this movie that kept me entertained from start to finish. Now the keyword there is “entertained”, because anybody can be entertained by anything, both good and bad.
Starting with the bad, it’s pretty obvious what holds back this film the most: its writing. The first question that was on everybody’s mind when this project was first announced was, “How do they turn a board game into a movie with a story?” Well, the writers took an easy way out by making the story about an alien invasion and working in a fleet of naval vessels into the story by having them square off in the Pacific ocean. Nothing terribly ingenious here and the writers, Erich and Jon Hoeber, do nothing to truly separate this alien invasion story from other alien invasion stories.
There was potential to do so—as silly as that sounds—when they start off with a character addressing and equating the issue of aliens called to Earth as something similar to Columbus and the Native Americans. But the film chooses to simply reduce that issue to nothing more than a tool to foreshadow the coming events.
Should I entirely fault the film for that? I’m divided since it is a story being written for a board game, but at the same time that shouldn’t be an excuse. Surprisingly enough Battleship does introduce other elements into the film that are pretty interesting, but once again these elements I’m speaking of wind up being nothing more then plot devices more than anything else, and they don’t work themselves into the story in a cohesive manner.
One of those elements I want to address is a character who has had his legs amputated due to combat overseas. Now this was something entirely unexpected on my part and would have made for an interesting story on its own, but it just doesn’t really fit this movie. There are some real thoughtful questions that could have been brought up, but the movie just kind of throws away that potential for its big show pieces.
Continuing on with the writing is the pretty laughable and at times idiotic dialogue. It’s not that these lines make you facepalm yourself, but they’re just so cliche and generic. Normally I wouldn’t be bothered much by something like this in a movie had it not been for a pretty weak cast.
Now aside from Liam Neeson, who has the ability to sell even the cheesiest of dialogue, the only other actors whose lines I could stomach were Taylor Kitsch, Tadanobu Asano and Hamish Linklater. They all played their characters to respectable levels, though I wish there was more of Hamish Linklater as he really plays up his character for laughs. The rest of the cast of actors are just throwaways with uninspiring performances highlighted by the film’s two leading ladies: Brooklyn Decker and Rihana.
A big part of what keeps this movie from being a total wreck due to its writing is director Peter Berg. Now I think he’s a very competent director with films like The Rundown, Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom and Hancock under his belt. For what he’s given in the script, he does make Battleship a really entertaining and fun movie from start to finish. As with action movies, one should always expect something new to be delivered in any new film, and what they gave me as an audience member was pretty innovative in my mind.
Now as much as I have criticized the writing in this film—story wise—I must admit that I was pretty impressed with how the Hoeber brothers worked in elements of the board game. The whole idea of blind naval combat is the concept behind the Battleship board game, and the way its used in the movie is pretty damn creative and impressive.
Is what they do actually plausible in real life? I have no clue, but for what it is in the movie I was highly entertained by it. I know there will be those who find this section of the film not as engaging, but I was totally immersed in the film during these parts.
And that continued into the film’s third act where the film’s big climactic battle takes place. I am partial to seeing naval combat in all forms from sea to space, and the last grand battle that takes place in this movie did not disappoint me at all. Berg’s direction and execution of the battle is exactly what I would have come to expect and it was entertaining for what it was.
Battleship does have glaring flaws and huge shortcomings, but I expected to be the case, especially in the areas it was exceptionally weak in. There is a lot left unexplained about the aliens and a lot that has to be assumed by the audience to the point that a lot of it doesn’t make sense.
Despite that, the film did add some surprising elements that I found really enjoyable, and I did have a fun time from beginning to end. It’s far from being one of the worst movies of the year in my mind, and it is a lot more fun than I think most people would give it credit for.
GO Rating: 2.5/5