Directed by Pete Berg
Written by Jon and Eric Hoeber, based on the Hasbro Board Game
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgaard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Hamish Linklater, and Liam Neeson
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language
Running Time of 131 Minutes
It is the rare film that I find wholly disingenuous in construction, and yet that is the reality one must face when you sit down to watch a film based on a Hasbro board game. Directed by Pete Berg (director of Friday Night Lights and creator of the excellent TV series of the same name), a fun filmmaker and actor, Battleship is as corporate-minded and obnoxiously loud as filmmaking gets. In fact, this film exists in a bizarre bubble in which Michael Bay is the greatest filmmaker alive, and all would-be blockbuster pictures should strive to ape his style, almost to the point of plagiarism. This is a sad day for the man who gave us the boys of the Dillon Panthers.
For some reason, writing team Eric and Jon Hoeber (Red, Whiteout) decided it would be a good idea to take the classic strategy board game about naval warfare and adapt it into an alien invasion picture. The film follows a paint by numbers structure in which we meet our “rogue” hero (Taylor Kitsch, as likable as ever) who must become a better man, are introduced to our world threatening event, and then slowly but surely all hell brakes loose in a barrage of explosions and gun fire. Everything else in between is a matter of course. There is barely an imaginative or elegant bone in this film’s body, and the majority of the 2nd act assaults the senses hard and fast. A single scene involving a tricky bit of naval warfare in the dark that attempts to recreate the experience of playing the titular board game is clever and even enjoyable, and more of that would have been welcome.
Berg and co. attempt to craft developed characters, but they are all of the stock variety and portrayed by non-actors, like Rihanna, an R&B star, and Brooklyn Decker, a model. The most lively presences, besides the aforementioned Kitsch as Alex Hopper, are Jesse Plemmons (a Friday Night Lights alum) as Ordy, an underused comic relief sailor, and Gregory D. Gadson, a real-life army veteran without legs. The casting of Gadson is one of the film’s only inspired bits, and he has a strong, calm, and effective screen presence. His casting speaks to one of the film’s missions: an almost unfaltering admiration and love for the men and women who have served in America’s armed forces. Battleship was made with the cooperation of the US Navy, and it shows. At times the film plays like a Navy recruitment video, and the shots of large destroyers sailing the sea are attractive and exciting. The film pays respect to the history of our Navy, as the film is centered around the island of Oahu in Hawaii, home to Pearl Harbor. The film also uses many real life Navy vets, and the classic battleship USS Missouri, which makes for one of its cheesier elements. Perhaps if Berg had stuck to his guns a bit more, the cheese could have covered the entire film instead of just select moments. That probably would have been more fun.
As it is, the film takes itself far too seriously, and it is all awash with slow motion and the orange and teal hues far too many blockbuster succumb to these days. The special effects and creature design are ugly, and the alien’s ships look just a little bit too much like sea Transformers. By taking a predictable and loud approach, clearly inspired by Michael Bay, completely with Steve Jablonsky score, Battleship disappears amongst a sea of other similar pictures. The film has no identity and no flavor, and is content deafening audiences with its nonstop sound and action. As the utterly unsubtle product placement suggests, don’t forget to grab a Coke Zero on the way out.