Battleship – movie review

by AARON KINNEY
Fans of the Hasbro board game will likely be disappointed, as the film adaptation of Battleship bears little similarity to its source material. There is a battleship, but rather than an enemy fleet, it battles aliens. Somewhere along the line, it seems a frizzy-haired executive shouted for aliens and was granted that one wish.
The concept is for sure a silly one, and Battleship struggles to make effective use of it. The root of the problem is its attempt to balance camp factor with drama, which is difficult for even the best writers and directors.
An alien race invades, intent on wiping out humanity, as they tend to be. The U.S. Navy must fight off the superior forces and save the world—although whether or not a force can be considered superior when its flagship is destroyed by a lone Iowa class battleship is up for debate. But this is essentially a film about the military kicking some serious alien butt, which it does with great panache.
A summer blockbuster through and through, Battleship offers no surprises, opting instead for non-stop explosions and hammy dialogue, heaping on the camp with gleeful abandon. When at its best, Battleship is all one-liners and goofy rock montages, reveling in its own absurdity.
There’s a great scene in which several Navy veterans emerge from the decommissioned Missouri (BB 63) while she sits in port. They stare down the heroes as if to ask, “Do you want us to help you kill some freaking aliens?” as triumphant music plays. And then they fire up the ship to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck and do precisely that, and it is wonderful.
It should be no surprise, then, that the more serious moments are among the weakest. Generally passable acting just can’t hold up some of the scenes that were obviously intended to have gravitas. The script can’t make us sympathize with the characters, so their plight carries little more weight than, “Humans good, aliens bad.”
Taylor Kitsch performs well enough as Alex Hopper, the slacker Everyman who must rise to the occasion and make with the heroism. Rihanna, in her acting debut, plays the smart-mouthed Cora Raikes and delivers the majority of the aforementioned hokey one-liners. Liam Neeson, though he’s hardly onscreen, is highly entertaining as Admiral Shane, clearly having fun with scowling his way through every scene.
The visual effects and pyrotechnics are outstanding, but the jerky camera and quick cuts often obscure the action; this was also a problem with Michael Bay’s Transformers films, which Battleship emulates (and outperforms) stylistically. That said, there’s something very satisfying about watching Mighty Mo blast a hyper-advanced alien warship to Kingdom Come.
To say, “It ain’t Shakespeare,” seems pointless, but, well…it ain’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Battleship is harmless, schlocky, silly fun, and to want it any other way is to miss the point.

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october, 2021

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