Directed by Peter Berg
In the grand tradition of silly and overblown (yet ultimately crowd-pleasing) action flicks like Armageddon, Independence Day, and Transformers, or even to a lesser degree Space Cowboys, comes actor-turned-director Peter Berg’s latest, Battleship, which stars Taylor Kitsch (“Friday Night Lights,” John Carter) and Alexander Skarsgard (“True Blood”) as a pair of brothers enlisted in the Navy who must face off against an alien fleet in the middle of the Pacific during what was supposed to be a day of standard Naval maneuvers.
As it turns out, at the start of Battleship a group of scientists have discovered an Earth-esque planet in a distant galaxy that seems to be able to sustain human life forms. They develop the technology to send out a signal to the planet, figuring nothing bad could come of it, but after about six years a response does come in the form of a small squadron of alien ships who eventually land on Earth, exert their authority, and set up camp for a planetary takeover.
This pisses the Navy off something fierce, and soon an all-out battle for mankind is afoot on the high seas where a high-tension game of “Battleship” breaks out (for real- they actually play a form of the popular game in the flick), and Kitsch must step up and out-strategize the invading alien race before they can signal for more ships to arrive and take over the planet.
If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Battleship thus far, the flick pretty much lives up to the absolutely ridiculous and cheesy premise it promises to be and really is one of the silliest films of the year so far. Despite its numerous (and I mean NUMEROUS) flaws, it’s not completely lacking in the entertainment department; but at the end of the day, Battleship is meant for a select audience and will only be fun for those who go into it looking for some mindless entertainment and that’s about it. Anyone looking for a life-changing cinematic experience should look elsewhere.
At the helm of Battleship is Berg, a director whose previous efforts include other action fare like The Rundown and The Kingdom as well as the dark comedy Very Bad Things and the teen football dramedy Friday Night Lights (Berg also served as the executive producer on the television series of the same name), and to be honest, while the action in his latest is the biggest he’s ever tackled, it’s definitely not Berg’s best effort by a longshot.
One of the biggest issues with Battleship is that it feels like Berg was hired to make a two-hour and eleven-minute long commercial for the US Navy; and when he wasn’t busy advertising for the Naval Forces, he was slipping in advertising for popular products like Coke and Subway, which always takes away from the enjoyment factor when you feel like someone is trying to sell you something when all you’re looking for is just to be entertained.
But that’s not to say the sole responsibility for Battleship‘s flaws lies squarely on Berg’s shoulders; most what really trips the film is the cringe-inducing script penned by Erich and Jon Hoeber, whose previous work has been somewhat hit and miss over the last few years on films like Whiteout and Red. But their script for Battleship takes the cake as one of the most giggle-inducing projects to come along in a while, killing any sort of emotion or tension Berg and his cast attempt to build along the way. At one point they even work in the line “They’re not going to sink this Battleship” so yeah, that’s the kind of depth going on in Battleship.
The performances are a mixed bag at best; with such hammy dialogue to work with, it’s hard to tell whether or not some of the actors are really THAT bad or if they decided to just check out mentally due to what they had to work with. The few bright spots amongst the Battleship ensemble include top-lining Kitsch, whose smoldering charisma proves he does have what it takes to lead an action flick despite what the disappointing John Carter box office receipts may have indicated a few months back. Neeson is criminally underutilized with what feels like a glorified cameo, but when he does show up, it’s a good time. Neeson’s a guy who has always had a knack for being able to add a little class to popcorn fodder such as this, and he turns in another likable turn here.
Plemons, another “Friday Night Lights” alum, is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Battleship with his performance feeling somewhat like an extension of his character Landry that so many fans fell in love with during the series’ five-year run. He’s funny, awkward, and has an infectious charisma that makes it hard to not be entertained whenever he’s being given screen time.
But at the other end of the acting spectrum in Battleship are Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and Skarsgard, who are all just downright awful. Sure, no one was expecting an Oscar-winning turn from the female pop vocalist (her one-liners are ridiculous at best), but the fact that Skarsgard seems to be asleep pretty much throughout his entire performance was pretty shocking considering his usually stellar work on HBO’s “True Blood.”
On the positive side, the visual effects work by Industrial Light & Magic on Battleship to create all of the alien-inflicted destruction looks pretty spectacular. The alien design in the film was a rather interesting approach that seemed to try and do something new by giving us a creature design that was a bit outside of the box. The space suits donned by the aliens seemed a bit too Halo for this writer’s liking, but the design works and actually serves the story (albeit a flimsy story) rather well.
In a summer movie season filled with highly anticipated blockbusters like The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, and even the recently released The Avengers, Battleship just doesn’t deliver on the spectacle it promises. Sure, there are a few decent performances and some great visual effects going on, but overall Battleship can’t get past its own “message” to have some fun, making for one of the more lackluster big budget action films to grace theaters since Pearl Harbor.
2 out of 5