“Battleship” Movie Review

     For a film that advertised itself as a “Transformers” in water, I have to say  director Peter Berg’s “Battleship” is surprisingly good.  That’s not to say it’s flawless and not loaded with plot holes the size of the ocean, but the film does do enough right to at minimum call it a solid entertainment.  Sadly, Universal ended up guessing wrong and put “Battleship” in the direct path of “The Avengers” which I don’t think anyone thought would be the juggernaut it has become.  What this means is the masses will simply miss  a film that provides just the right type of popcorn summer fun audiences have come to expect.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me express my distaste for the “Transformers” sequels, dismissing them as having no story to go along with the bombastic special effects.  Where “Battleship” hits its target is the fact the story makes you forget about the special effects, concerning itself more with the characters and how they function within the story.


     Aside from the fact there are indeed several Naval warships featured in “Battleship”, there really isn’t much else having to do with the popular board game the film claims it is based on.  What we have here is really a less global and less epic retelling of the story in “Independence Day.”  Make no mistake, it shouldn’t have been this film’s goal to be epic like your typical Michael Bay film.  I think that’s where some of his films are flawed because they try to cover too much in a short amount of time.  In “Battleship”, the filmmakers set up the story in the first act and then minimize the conflict into one battlefield.  Yes, the aliens basically take care of this by creating a force field like dome that traps only three Naval warships within it, but it really is the plot device which saves this film from itself.


     You may remember Taylor Kitsch from his starring role earlier this year in “John Carter”.  No wait, most of you won’t remember him because no one went and saw “John Carter”!  Kitsch plays Lieutenant Alex Hopper who after some prodding from his older brother joins the Navy and becomes an Officer.  We are told some years back, NASA began a project which sent continuous signals via satellite to a planet they had discovered which is believed to have an atmosphere similar to Earth’s.  Well apparently it worked as a small contingent of alien space craft come to Earth I’m assuming to check out the origins of the signal which has them land in Hawaii where the signals are beamed from daily.


     At the same time, the Navy is running a war games drill with Japan just off the shore of Hawaii and that’s when the aliens begin their attack.  When the aliens originally enter Earth’s atmosphere, their communications ship crashes into one of our satellites causing that ship to lose control and crash in Hong Kong.  The characters in the film surmise the aliens are intent on using the NASA equipment to “phone home” as one of the characters puts it in order to get reinforcements.


     With Lt. Hopper left in command of the last warship within the force field, he and his crew are forced to come up with several creative ways to fight the superior alien ships.  Some of the best sequences in the film are the ways the lone ship combats the enemy and each are a good example of where I say you kind of lose sight of the special effects and instead are paying attention to the thinking going on behind the action.  The characters in “Battleship” actually use strategy and figure things out.  The dialogue is meaningful and actually applies to what your seeing or about to see and that is a huge accomplishment for a film like this.


     Even the obligatory female eye candy played by Brooklyn Decker is given meaningful things to do as she is teamed up in several important scenes with real life disabled war veteran Gregory Gadson.  With their own conflicts to deal with on land, Decker and Gadson have some great scenes, especially in the third act.  The filmmakers having a non actor like Gadson play such an important role was daring, but the results are exceptional and it really gives the film a genuine feeling of true patriotism.


     Rihanna makes her acting debut in this film as well and has a few notable scenes but is mostly left in the background.  Same goes for Liam Neeson as the Admiral of the fleet that can’t get through the force field to help his trapped warships.  I could’ve used a little more of both of them, but as I said “Battleship” focuses on very few central characters and the mission at hand.  Not really a bad thing. 


     Though the story is solid, the film is not without its fair share of cheesy moments.  There is one point where Hopper rips off “Star Wars” and says “I have a bad feeling about this.”  For the sake of nostalgia, I much would’ve rather he said “You sank my battleship!” GRADE: B-