Friday, June 1, 2012

Battleship Movie Review

Hasbro has made a few movies based on their toy products. Some of these include Clue (1985), G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra (2009), and the Transformers movies. Film adaptations of other Hasbro games would be hilarious: Jenga? Hungry Hungry Hippos? Connect 4? Most of us rolled our eyes in exasperation when we first heard news about a movie based on the famous board game, but Peter Berg's Battleship (2012) wasn't half bad.
After irresponsible beach bum Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is arrested for a reckless stunt, his older brother, Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard), demands that Alex make something of himself and insists that he join him in the Navy. Alex's stunt was supposed to impress Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), but since she is the daughter of Stone's Navel commanding officer, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), it reflected poorly on Stone. Meanwhile, a transmission is being sent into deep space to see if there is intelligent life on a nearby Earth-like plant. In as much time as it takes to get Alex into a uniform and on a U.S. Destroyer, five alien crafts enter our solar system in tight formation. The U.S. destroyers exchange fire with the alien crafts which prove to be formidable opponents. Two Naval ships are destroyed, one of which was commended by Stone. After several officers on Alex's ship die, he is left as the highest ranking officer, and must take command. As this is happening, Samantha is revealed to be a physical therapist working with Army vet Mick Canales (real life Iraq hero, Colonel Gregory D. Gadson). They meet Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater) who has escaped from the communications relay which was taken over by the aliens. The aliens are trying to use the satellite relay to call for reinforcements.
Battleship is loosely based on the board game of the same name. If you keep a sharp eye out for them, you can find subtle references to the game.  The officers find a way to track the alien ships' underwater movements using weather buoys. The resulting display grid resembles the Battleship game board. The Aliens make a gigantic force field around their splashdown area, trapping some of the Navy ships inside. So it's a few Navy ships versus the alien ships; a finite combat area with no external interference, just like the board game. Also, the aliens launch large explosive canisters at the Navy ships which get lodged in the hull for a few seconds then explode. These canisters are shaped like the pegs used in the board game to mark hits. These are subtle references; the movie isn't trying to sell us a Battleship board game.
The characters in Battleship aren't very complex or deep. Yet they are still more interesting than the characters we saw in Transformers. Alex resembles a lot of swashbuckler-type characters from recent movies; fearless, energetic, foolhardy, disobedient, and unpredictable, yet they excel despite their impertinence. He's like Captain Kirk on Star Trek (2009) or just about any character that Sam Worthington has played. Rihanna portrays Petty Officer Cora 'Weps' Raikes and was pretty good for what she was; a butt-kicking female protagonist who also exhibits creativity and resourcefulness. This was this R&B/pop star's first acting role; she did very well. Colonel Gadson, an American bilateral above-the-knee amputee, did a fantastic job in this role. In Battleship he plays a war veteran who lost his legs and feels it makes him less of a man; unable to perform even some of the most mundane tasks. He's a great character with a powerful presence. He grows, regaining self-respect, and again accepts the call of duty.
Holding true to B-movie formats; we send out an invitation to possible alien life forms to make contact with us, the call is answered, and without bothering to communicate, the military fires on the aliens. At several points in Battleship we're given reason to think the aliens may not be here to invade or destroy; they primarily attack our weapon structures (military vessels, weapon depots, etc.), and even then it's only after being fired upon. This could have made an interesting plot device, but the movie didn't do anything with it. There isn't a specific villain; just a faceless army that shows us only a few troops. Because the aliens have no lines and don't necessarily seem have malicious intentions, it weakens the conflict.
Battleship isn't simply a nonstop barrage of special effects and explosions. The story and characters are a bit more intricate than Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, though that's not saying much; it's still overall a weak movie. Battleship honors war veterans throughout the movie, especially in Canales' character. Veterans are shown to be real heroes before, and are fully capable of being heroes again if called upon. It's a perfect Memorial Day movie. Battleship wasn't great, but it was a fun time for what it was if you can ignore the writing tropes and silliness. I could see it becoming a cult classic one day. It's still cheesy, but not as much as we expected it to be, we can still laugh at it and enjoy it, and it's based on a board game for crying out loud! It might be worth seeing once; catching it on DVD would be fine, but a matinee ticket will show you some pretty great explosions on the big screen. I don't think it's worth owning a copy, though.

Did you see Battleship? Did you like it? Did you hate it? What do you think of movies based on board games? Comment below and let me know!

1 comment:

  1. At the end of the day, you will be entertained by this movie, whether you loved it or not.