Battleship (2012) Movie Review
Alex Hopper has potential. Lots of potential. Or at least, that’s what everyone in Peter Berg’s “Battleship” keeps telling me. Though honestly, the first 30 minutes of the film, which sets up the character and the world-threatening alien invasion he must rebuff, really doesn’t back up everyone’s claim about ol Alex. Sure, he’s got drive, but we already know that when he breaks into a corner store just to grab a chicken burrito for hot Sam (Sports Illustrated supermodel turned actress Brooklyn Decker). When he sets his mind to something, Alex can be pretty persistent. And reckless. And downright stupid. But hey, what wouldn’t you do to get into Brooklyn Decker’s pants?
“Battleship” is “Transformers” without the transforming alien robots. Though you do get transforming alien ships, so that’s about 50 percent “Transformers” right there. The film concerns a small group of alien ships arriving on planet Earth years after we sent them a welcome signal. Seems the alien dudes took us up on our offer and have sent forward a scout group. Now that they’ve arrived on Earth and found us lacking, but our resources plentiful, the alien baddies are trying to report back home to launch a full-scale invasion. Of course, the last couple of sentences is just me guessing about the film’s overarching plot. “Battleship” doesn’t really bother itself with telling me the alien’s motives in a clear and concise matter, so I had to do a little deduction, which means I could be entirely wrong.
I’m probably not, though. “Battleship”, written by the brothers Erich and Jon Hoeber (“Red”), is not exactly going for subtlety here. When the film isn’t cranking heavy metal music to keep your brain occupied, it’s cranking out human and alien ammo at an obscene rate. “Battleship” is loud. Everyone in this film does things loudly. The aliens shoot loudly; the humans shoot back and evade loudly. Peter Berg even goes to great lengths to remind you that the film started life as a boardgame, so we get a sequence where the humans try to sink the alien’s battleships using grid deduction. To give Berg and company credit, this was actually pretty thrilling. It took me a while to figure out they were doing homage to Battleship The Boardgame, but that’s probably just me being slow on the take.
Taylor Kitsch, coming off the huge box office flop of “John Carter”, makes his second go-round as Alex Hopper, commander of the last human destroyer that can stop the impending alien invasion. You seen, once they arrive on Earth, those pesky aliens put up a forcefield that barricades the rest of the Navy from interfering with their little mission. Hopper’s destroyer is one of three trapped behind enemy lines, and soon, it’s the only one left. Kitsch is making his second stab as being your sci-fi action hero, and while it’s not exactly a complex role, Kitsch does it well enough to earn passing marks. Tadanobu Asano, as Hopper’s Japanese rival (and arguably one of the most famous actors working in Japan today, FYI), has more screentime than I had expected. Usually the “foreign guy” is a token character in these movies, but Asano’s role easily eclipses everyone but Kitsch, including Hopper’s brother (“True Blood’s” Alexander Skarsgård), who bites it pretty early on.
If you’re looking to poke holes in the film, then good luck, because you’re going to be sitting there poking lots and lots of holes. The film is filled with absurd plot logic and just the most ridiculous contrivances to get its characters from A to B. Truthfully, though, if you were concerned about such things and still paid good money to see “Battleship” after all the trailers and clips and online reviews, then clearly you must be the dumbest man alive. “Battleship” is a popcorn movie through and through, with so little regard for smart scripting that it borders on the impressive. Berg knows what he’s making here, and he’s too smart of a filmmaker for me to believe that he thought he was doing anything other than a slam-bang, crowd-pleasing Summer event film and nothing more. He’s said as much in all the interviews I’ve seen.
“Battleship” is a big, loud, and dumb Summer action movie. After a silly 20 minutes to set up everything, the film is almost nonstop explosions and firepower and alien flying death machines. Liam Neeson is wasted as Sam’s Admiral father, and the film has a curiously myopic view of the alien invasion. You get some cursory scenes of the American military and politicians assembling to discuss the problem, but they never really do a whole lot other than just that. But “Battleship” does have one thing over all other alien invasion films — its action takes place on the water. Besides “The Abyss”, which was hardly an alien invasion movie in the truest sense, this is the first time I can think of of an alien invasion movie that is concentrated on the water. And oh yeah, you also get to see a guy with no legs fist-fight an alien. That in itself is almost worth the price of admission.
Peter Berg (director) / Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber (screenplay)
CAST: Taylor Kitsch … Lieutenant Alex Hopper
Alexander Skarsgård … Commander Stone Hopper
Rihanna … Petty Officer Cora ‘Weps’ Raikes
Brooklyn Decker … Samantha Shane
Tadanobu Asano … Captain Yugi Nagata
Hamish Linklater … Cal Zapata
Liam Neeson … Admiral Shane