'Battleship:' A Waterlogged Absurdity You Can Cheer For
PG-13 'Battleship' feels like a two-hour Navy recruitment video.
I'm surprised blue and gold aren't the colors used on the movie poster for "Battleship," along with Go Navy! and Beat Aliens! If you leave your brain at the front door of the multiplex on a day you feel like rooting for the home team, you could do worse than vacillating between cheering and snickering for those two hours of this completely ridiculous, raucous mash-up of "Independence Day," "Pearl Harbor," and "Transformers."
Director Peter Berg, of "Friday Night Lights," "The Kingdom," and "Hancock," knows his way around the camera. So we can try to accept the fact that for some reason he feels the need to release his inner Michael Bay. What results is not exactly a good movie, but one that unapologetically embraces its cliches, even on occasion winking at them, while careening pell-mell towards its conclusion like a speedboat out of control.
I must admit, I rolled my eyes repeatedly at lines like "I have a bad feeling about this..." and "Let's do this!" but the movie kept my attention and Berg made me more than a little invested in humanity surviving to enlist another day.
I had the strange and surreal experience of watching the movie surrounded by military personnel and you've never heard such cheering. It was like they were watching themselves onscreen, which is a testament to Berg's direction, the actors, and the script, however ridiculous it is. My family is Navy and I can tell you, they actually talk and dress that way. You could separate out the military in the theater, or anywhere for that matter, from a mile away. They were clearly very well portrayed.
Plot? The movie is based on a game by Hasbro (as indicated, and giggled at, in the opening titles of the movie). The screenwriters actually contort the plot so as to lead us to hearing coordinates: "F3! D4! H8!" as in the game….
There are two naval brothers, one by the book, the other headed for trouble. Older brother Stone Hopper is played by "vampire Eric" Alexander Skarsgard, giving the world of women dubious of action-ers the first reason to head to the theater and watch things go "boom."
Younger Alex Hopper is played by Taylor Kitsch, in full bad-boy mode. Girls, that's reason two. They encounter aliens during a war games exercise out to sea and whoever is left alive after the high-tech bombs start flying from the space ships will have to try to save the world. Anchors aweigh, it's time to kill some aliens!
Rihanna plays a petty officer named Weps, channelling "Resident Evil"-era Michelle Rodriguez, who shoots things and has lines like "Dang!" and "Boom!" At least she doesn't do anything stupid, and shows a respectable first foray into acting. The one who really phones it in as Liam Neeson as admiral Shane. He must have blown all his acting dollars on Joe Carnahan's "The Grey," where he does more than scowl and bark.
One big standout is a local: Col. Gregory Gadson, director of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, plays Mick Canales, a double amputee who helps save the day with his physical therapist Sam (Sports Illustrated model Brooklyn Decker) who also plays Alex Hooper's fiance. Apparently Gadson's role started out small, but grew larger when director Berg saw how much his scenes added to the film. It's shades of Harold Russell in "The Best Years of Our Lives."
Gadson, who as the token representative of the Army, wears a T-shirt emblazoned with "A.R.M.Y" throughout the movie, does a good job with a part that could have been on the cutting room floor.
Just when you think the movie can't get any more patriotic, a key scene in the third act has veterans of World War II and the Korean War getting into the act (played by actual veterans of WWII and the Korean War), even getting to march into the fray in true Michael Bay slow-motion fashion. These old boys aren't messing around, and they want to blow some things up. At this point, the movie is so over the top all you can do is go with it.
I'll say one thing for "Battleship"—it isn't boring. We all know going in it won't be "The Piano" or "Gone With The Wind," but the blaring AC/DC and other obvious "goin' to war" musical badass-ery is right in place, and so is the endless succession of explosions. By the time the prerequisite medal ceremony takes place, you think, hey, this 21st-century bloated-budget B movie was actually entertaining.
Ridiculous, but entertaining.