After three big-budget variations of "Transformers," anything with shifting metal parts, alien life forms and a hot girlie in distress triggers an involuntary poke-my-eye-out response. I didn't think "Battleship," inspired by a Hasbro game, would charge up my engines any more than "Transformers," which is based on Hasbro toys. I gloomed over the thought of sitting through a two-hour-plus viewing of "Battleship." (Have I mentioned that this movie finds its creative origins in a board game?)
Shlumping into the chill of the movie theater, I predicted "Battleship" would sink to the bottom of the sea from lead-laden dialogue along the witless lines of "You sunk my battleship." Apparently others felt like I did. "Battleship" earned the lowest opening-weekend box office for any movie made over $200 million. Even "John Carter," which also starred Taylor Kitsch, didn't sink so low.
But I am not a hater of "Battleship." Not once did I hear, "You sunk my battleship." To be less charitable, the words may have been spoken, but Steve Jablonsky's menacing score, carefully crafted to accelerate your heartbeat at pivotally intense moments, drowned them out. When the movie gets sloppy thick from patriotic good intentions, someone in the film shouts out what you are already thinking: "Really! I mean really, who talks like that?"
Erich and Jon Hoeber penned the script for "Battleship." Their script, which director Peter Berg and action hero Taylor Kitsch tinkered with, modulates the tone of the film to keep in sync with the absurdity of the plot. (Have I mentioned that the movie's premise comes from a board game?)
The movie opens on two brothers, each representing one half of the duality of brotherhood. Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) is the good brother. He's a Navy commander embodying the Navy Credo. He serves his country with honor. His responsibilities sober him, and his adversities strengthen him.
Stone's main responsibility and adversity come from the same source: his younger brother, Alex (Kitsch). Alex steals a chicken burrito from a convenience store for Samantha Shane, an admiral's daughter (Brooklyn Decker). His chivalrous deeds gets him tasered by the police and provide a good reason for Alex to lie butt naked in an ice bath so we can view his wounds. His bad-boy antics win Alex the girl's love and affection. Her dad, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), doesn't get it. So much potential, but Alex is missing something. Judgment, perhaps?
Every film these days has an energy portal, and not wanting to tread new water, so does "Battleship." Under the Beacon Project, the U.S. government creates a transmission device to search for intelligent beings in the universe generally and Planet G specifically. Scientist Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater) prophesizes that if the planet contains life forms, then they'll see a re-enactment of Columbus and the American Indians.
Sure enough, an alien armada sneaks through the portal wreaking destruction and mayhem in Hawaii where worldwide naval games are going on under Admiral Shane's leadership. One of the spacecrafts splinters off to Asia and rips the Buddha off the top of a mountain in China. Peace done, war has begun.
Alex Hopper must man up. He makes some bad decisions, but his best one involves enlisting the help of Captain Yugi Nagati (Tadanobu Asano). Joined together by a common enemy, but without singing "Kumbaya" (although such a pleasant song could have been smothered out by the score), naval officers from the United States and Japan protect (please don't throw up here) Pearl Harbor and the world!
"Battleship" blows other heavy-metal films out of the water. We learn that museum boats not only float, they can rock the high seas in combat against lizard-faced aliens. These creatures shrivel and die without sunscreen. Without giving too much away, aliens need to bring their white flag next time they decide to slither down an energy portal to our planet. Or at the very least, they need to bring a giant bottle of Coppertone.
Although this film bobs like a plastic buoy on the high seas of summer cinema, it will bring out your inner patriot. If I were younger, slimmer, less saggy in a T-shirt and looked like Rihanna in her combat fatigues, I would enlist, too.
Maybe that's the point. Accelerate yourself with an accelerant. It will blow something away.