Battleship, the film we have all been eagerly anticipating. A movie based on a board game, featuring the acting debut of pop star Rihanna, and starring the esteemed thespian Liam Neeson in the most transparent cash-grab role of all time; how could this go wrong?
In all seriousness, even the title Battleship has been a punch line for months now, ever since it was first announced. Hasbro sold the film rights to several of their properties to interested film studios, all parties hoping to capture a little of that nostalgia magic that the Transformers franchise has had so much success with. For some reason no one has realized that there is a huge difference between people lining up to watch the giant robot fights that they have imagined since the early 80s finally hitting the big screen, and an adaptation of a game that they have played a handful of times on rainy weekends that involved taking turns saying, “F-4? No no no, wait…D-10!”
The film opens on a lonely birthday party being held in honor of ne’er do well Tom Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) by his Navy enlisted brother Stone (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard). While being lectured on the importance of growing up and becoming a man, Tom’s attention is drawn to Sam (Brooklyn Decker). Hoping to impress her with his ability to buy burritos after dark, Tom breaks into a convenience store, only to find himself tazed in front of the woman he lusts.
Two years later we find that not only has Tom taken Stone’s advice and enlisted in the Navy, but Sam is the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Hoping to prove his worth to Sam’s father in order to ask for her hand in marriage, Tom loses his temper during Naval Games and picks a fight with his Japanese counterpart.
That’s when the aliens show up. Drawn to Earth by a message being beamed into outer space by well-meaning scientists trying to coax E.T. into visiting, we are instead invaded by hostiles off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands. Attacking every naval ship that they find to be a threat, and killing dozens of naval officers in the process, Tom finds himself in charge of the last boat standing, without a plan of attack against an unknown enemy.
Guys, this might be one of the worst movies I have ever watched in a theater. I mean, I’m sure there are worse that can be found on the Sy Fy Channel any day of the week, but those are made for $10 and everyone involved realizes they are making shit. Here, we have a talented director squandering precious time and funds to give us a steaming pile on a plate.
Director Peter Berg has had an uneven career, but nothing in the past could have ever pointed toward a disaster like this happening in his future. Making his debut with the promising, but ultimately mediocre, films Very Bad Things and The Rundown, he had a sleeper hit in 2004 with the high-school football drama Friday Night Lights. Following that up with the underrated war drama The Kingdom and box-office success Hancock, it has been 4 years since Berg stepped behind a camera to deliver a film to movie-goers.
The only highlight of the film is the opening scenes featuring Tom’s attempts to win the heart of Sam. Berg knows comedy, and here he has a great opening to showcase his actors’ skills. Unfortunately, everything after this opening is just complete crap. A bad script, bad actors, visual effects that remind one of Critters 2 (1988); it is apparent that no one associated with this production cares about their audience, otherwise there would have been more of an attempt to put a decent product on the screen.
I realize it’s not a huge surprise to find out that Battleship is a bomb, but usually when you walk into a film expecting an unmitigated disaster you will find yourself walking out pleasantly surprised that the movie wasn’t a complete waste of time. No such luck here. A word of advice; if you are looking for adventure, The Avengers is still playing on five screens per theater, watch that again instead. Vote with your dollars this weekend and tell Hollywood you deserve, and expect, better.