‘Battleship’ a miss

Article Published: May. 24, 2012 | Modified: May. 24, 2012
‘Battleship’ a miss

The U.S. Navy takes on aliens on ‘Battleship.’

To answer your question, no – nobody says, “You sunk my battleship.”

And that’s a shame.

For a movie based on a 69-year-old board game, in which players blindly attack each other’s imaginary fleet of warships on a coordinated grid, “Battleship” takes itself way too seriously and sinks in the process.

It’s as if the screenwriters were playing a figurative game of “Battleship,” only instead of coordinates, they’re calling out asinine plot devices.

“Appropriate narrative structure befitting a movie based on a board game!”
“Miss. It’ll star Rihanna!”

“Hit. It’ll have aliens!”

“Hit. Arg! You sunk my battleship.”

It’s somewhat of a boggle (look for “Boggle the Movie” in a couple years) in that the filmmakers are obviously aiming for nostalgia with the “Battleship” brand, yet that’s one thing they don’t deliver.
Instead, director Peter Berg (“Collateral”) brings us loud, noisy, “Transformers”-ish action in the form of oddly inept aliens taking on a handful of naval craft.

Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter”) stars as Lt. Hopper, a hotheaded, unconventional and somewhat lazy Navy officer who’s fallen in love with an admiral’s (Liam Neeson, “The Grey”) daughter (Brooklyn Decker, “Just Go With It”).

He wants to marry her, but must first ask the admiral’s permission. He’s deterred after being reprimanded for assaulting a Japanese captain and must go to sea with a heavy conscience.
Little does he know, he’ll be going to sea with aliens, as well.

In a fine show of hubris, scientists have attempted to contact what they call a Goldilocks planet, a distant world that’s not too near and not too far from its respective sun, meaning it could sustain life.

Their answer comes with a fleet of five alien warships that crash into the Pacific Ocean. Upon surfacing, they create a bubble that encases the entirety of Hawaii, a broad chunk of ocean and a handful of ships, including Hopper’s, while the remainder of the fleet is just outside.

Despite mastering interstellar travel, the aliens can only attack their foes within a direct line of sight, using projectile peg-like missiles – that strongly resemble those pegs from the board game – as artillery.

With his captain and first officer lost in the first encounter, Hopper must take command of his ship and fight the alien menace. But here’s the kicker – their radar’s out, meaning they must employ tsunami-monitoring buoys to create a sort of grid on which they can monitor water levels and fire blindly at what they anticipate to be their enemy’s location, with the crew, including recording artist Rihanna, calling out “Hit!” or “Miss!” accordingly.

Sounds funny, right?

To Berg, this is obviously some heavy stuff. “Battleship” is not without humor, as its first 15 minutes play like the start of a bawdy romantic comedy, but it only deteriorates from there.

One particular subplot involves Hopper’s physical therapist girlfriend and a paraplegic patient (played by real-life Iraq War veteran John Tui) attempting to halt the aliens’ attempt at phoning home via Earth satellites, since they apparently forgot to replenish their space minutes.

It’s as full of holes as the board game’s playing field and much less fun, particularly when Berg shamelessly touts it as a patriotic tribute to sailors past and present and the sacrifices they have made.

Berg definitely didn’t sacrifice screen time, as “Battleship” runs at a mind-numbing 131 minutes. To keep things moving, though, there’s computer-generated action aplenty to shift focus from the shoddy writing and paper-thin characters.

The principal actors seem to grasp the film’s lack of gravity, though. These characters are far from deep, and most of the cast members portray them knowingly with tongue in cheek, Kitsch especially.

Alexander Skarsgard (2011’s “Straw Dogs”) plays it straight as Hopper’s Navy captain brother, while Rihanna does her best Michelle Rodriguez impersonation. Neeson, as expected, intimidates.
It’s an absurd portrayal of the Navy, which, if manned by this group of individuals, could probably be sunk by the Gorton’s Fisherman.

But we might have to wait a while for that movie. In the meantime, prepare for subsequent features based on board games, like “Candyland” and “Ouija Board.” Seriously.

“Battleship,” rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theatre in West Jefferson. For show times, see page 17-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com.

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