By Tim Posada, 5/24/2012
This is what happens when a director takes the B-roll from “Transformers” and uses it for a different film. I’ve never seen a premise stretched as much as in “Battleship” — adding aliens to the maritime board game — but let’s be honest, a Naval film about battleships doesn’t appeal to a modern audience that no longer reads Tom Clancy. As “Independence Day” and anything “Transformers” proved, we need a little alien invasion with our military to keep things interesting. Nothing says “USA!” like our first line of defense taking on an intergalactic nemesis.
The film begins much like the game does: preparing for combat with an enemy over the open sea. The U.S. Navy prepares for RIMPAC, a bi-annual international maritime exercise. The ambiance is just right for Adm. Shane (Liam Neeson) to declare, “You sunk my battleship,” at a potential defeat by a Japanese destroyer –– battleships are now obsolete (I wonder if that little fact will come in handy in the 11th hour). But the games are postponed when some UFOs land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii near both the naval exercise and several satellites sending a message into space (what luck!). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that a little while earlier, scientists projected a signal into space hoping for an answer from other planets. But the reply isn’t quite the “we come in peace” scientists hoped for. So much for a friendly RIMPAC exercise with E.T.
Cue our rugged hero, Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch). Not exactly the nation’s finest, Hopper always gets in his own way, much to the dismay of his brother, Cmdr. Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård), Admiral Shane and the admiral’s daughter and love of our protagonist’s life, Samantha (Brooklyn Decker). But there’s nothing like a world catastrophe to prove your worth, as Hopper leads a ship against Transformers-esque opposition with the help of crewmembers like Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes (played by the singer Rihanna, proving that even though she’s “perfectly good” at being bad, she can also play an asexual soldier on screen) and Japanese commander, Capt. Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano). As the rather convoluted stage is set, these underdogs move their way through wave after wave of attacks with just enough time to provide us with as many war movie one-liners as possible. Apparently naval gunners really like to say, “Boom,” right before they pull the trigger.
I realize the trailers claim a substantial connection to the “Transformers” franchise, but other than one of the producers (Brian Goldner), the composer (Steve Jablonsky) and the toy company of origin, Hasbro (also behind the “G.I. Joe” property), this one has a distinct byline difference, even though the final product is shamelessly similar in narrative style, geriatric dialogue and overly cartoony visual effects. I’m shocked by the lack of DreamWorks or Michael Bay involvement. Still, I can’t help but imagine Bay sitting in a darkly lit room with a Megatron costume on, maniacally touching his fingertips together whilst thinking about this film, sinisterly declaring in a low voice, “Good…good.”
I must admit, the film isn’t charmless. Most jokes are contrived, but some of them actually work. And the action scenes are incredibly well done; it’s only when the characters speak that things go wrong. This is what “Battle: Los Angeles” should’ve been. But for every enjoyable moment, two more ridiculous ones follow.
“Battleship” marks a horrifying turning point in summer blockbusters –– a turn for what can only be considered the idiotic spectacle. This is as dumb as a popcorn film can get, but it’s only possible because of another even dumber action film. Luckily, “Battleship” sinks in comparison to “The Avengers”, both critically and at the box office, giving us a glimmer of hope for a future where audiences aren’t talked down to by way of trivial humor and big explosions. I propose a brighter future free of nitwits with $200 million budgets, and resisting this flick is a good start.
Please, don’t think I’m against fun at the movies; I just happen to think that fun looks more like a bunch of superheroes working together to stop an alien foe than mediocre acting, incredibly corny dialogue and an absurd amount of head shots during conversations to cheatingly create “dramatic” tension. In short, see “The Avengers” for a third or fourth time instead of this film once.