You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but Battleship is a bad movie. Who would have ever predicted that the movie based on a plastic peg based board game would turn out to be a stupid? Now, there are a handful of moments where that stupidity seems deliberate and aimed at provoking campy laughs. Had that tone been consistent all the way through, there is a slight chance that it could have been big dopey fun. But, that didn’t happen.
The good news is that since the whole tedious endeavor is such an obvious disaster and faces off against the new Sacha Baron Cohen joint and the still thriving Avengers this weekend, there’s a damn good chance it will bomb. That would be fantastic because the opening logo stream for Battleship included a card for Hasbro, suggesting that the toy company made enough money off of the Transformers and G.I. Joe flicks to open up a film production wing with dreams of cranking out annual action figure adaptations like Marvel Studios did with their comics. Let’s just prey Battleship does poorly enough for Hasbro to get second thoughts about rushing out their cinematic treatments for Lite-Brite, Play-Doh, and the Easy Bake Oven (surely that won’t should be saved for a Saturday morning food network series, no?)
Not much happens in the movie that wasn’t spelled out in the trailer, but let’s remind ourselves shall we. Apparently somewhere in those secret bunkers hidden around the US in bad movies, NASA discovered a planet in another solar system that seemed to be just far enough from its sun to sustain life like earth. Having recently launched new fancy satellite capable of sending out signals to that area of space, they decide to try and make contact. They do and quickly aliens from that world travel to earth to kick some human ass. Who could possibly stop them? Well, once upon a time there was this loser (Taylor Kitsch, who is now a star after John Carter, right guys?) who had accomplished nothing in his life and lived on the floor of his Navy vet brother (Alexander Skarsgard). One night they go to a bar and Taylor spots a girl (Brooklyn Decker) who has such big boobs and such blonde hair that he instantly falls in love and gets arrested trying to steal her a burrito (don’t ask).
After that night, his brother forces Taylor into the Navy and we flash forward a few years into the future when the boys are about to engage in some friendly war games with the Japanese army around Hawaii (insensitive, but ok). The blond godess’ father (Liam Neeson) turns out to be a general who Taylor needs to impress to ask for permission to wed his daughter, but just can’t stop screwing up long enough to pull it off. Then in the middle of the war games, alien ships crash into the sea and only these rough n’ tumble Navy types can save the world. Think that Taylor just might impress Liam Neeson at the end of all this? Well, you’re right and it takes way too long to get to that obvious conclusion, pausing for pit stops involving Rihanna as an action star, some science nerds explaining the alien plot, a legless ex-Navy seal, and a few old timer Navy types primed for geriatric interplanetary warfare.
As that detailed plot summary proves, the movie is idiotic. The cast are of course awful, but can’t really be blamed for that given the nonsense resembling a screenplay they had to work with. However, no one on the planet thought Battleship would be an intelligent project that reinvented blockbusters. It was always guaranteed to be dumb fun at best and unfortunately Battleship can’t even quite live up to that simple standard. At 130 minutes, it’s simply too long for such an idiotic premise and numbs butts n’ minds alike. This is a loud assault on the senses where every scene starts with a hard rock musical montage and we’re never more than a few minutes away from an explosion. In other words, it wants to be a Michael Bay movie and without Michael Bay involved, it’s doesn’t even pull that off. Director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Hancock) essentially does his best Bay impression and while he succeeds in making something loud and dumb, he doesn’t manage to make it entertaining. The action is so one note and repetitive it’s hard to get even remotely excited by the 8th time that an alien spacecraft and a battleship fire missiles at each other. You’ll just feel sad for having paid for the right to sit through this mess.
In previous movies Berg has displayed a dark and sneaky streak of self-mocking humor that could have saved Battleship by acknowledging how ridiculous the whole thing is. As I alluded to before, there are a few moments where Berg does that (aka the best moments in the movie), but not nearly enough. What are they you ask? Well at one point alien technology kills off all of the fancy radar and computer-charged aiming devices on the hero’s ship. There’s only one solution. They’ll have to go old school and plot out a simple grid map from the most basic remaining radar tech and shoot blindly at where they think the aliens are positions. To aim they pick a quadrant on the map like say E-4 and hope for the best. See what they did there? It’s like the board game! Well, that sequence is vaguely amusing. Another funny game reference are the aliens bullets, giant red pegs that stick into their targets before exploding…you know like the pegs in the game. Finally when the main ships in the fleet are destroyed the only option for Taylor Kitsch is to man up an old relic of a battleship left in the harbor. The only problem is that his men can’t operate it, however, the old WW2 veterans left on the island can and the moment when the emerge from the ship in slow motion to a rock anthem like a retirement community’s production of Reservoir Dogs got huge laughs from the audience. All of these sequences are hilarious and I’d like to think that Berg included them as self-mocking gags. However, I just can’t guarantee that’s the case particularly given how flat the film’s genuine attempts at humor turned out.
I find it hard to believe that there will be a worse blockbuster this summer than Battleship (although Snow White And The Huntsman could make me eat my words). There will still be plenty of folks out there who buy tickets purely for explosions who might get a kick out of it, but even those sad people must feel a bit guilty about signing up for a board game movie. Had the movie been made by filmmakers with their tongues buried within their cheeks, it could have been fun. After all, no one showing up to the theater will be taking the movie seriously. Unfortunately, the people in charge did seem to take their job seriously and as a result they’ve made an impossibly dull collection of explosions and ra-ra American military propaganda. Sadly, the movie can’t even be recommended for falling into the “so-bad-it’s-good” category. No, this movie is so-bad-it’s-bad and should disappear into obscurity almost instantly. I’d imagine Universal Studios knew they were in trouble when the debut trailer played to unplanned laughs around the world. Hopefully they’ve already cut their losses on this thing because I can’t imagine anyone stumbling out of the theater thrilled by what they saw. In fact, the movie may even add a little more cash to The Avengers box office tally with legions of viewers leaving halfway through to demand their money back to spend it on a blockbuster that actually delivers on the goofy fun of it’s premise.