Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson
Directed by Peter Berg
All hands on deck. All hands on deck.
“Battleship” is a shamelessly corny, ridiculous, silly, cheesy and utterly preposterous big budget Hollywood spectacle, but it’s also a guilty pleasure of the tallest order, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it. But that’s what happens when you lower your expectations to the point where they hit rock-bottom. There’s only one place to go from there, so consider this review as something of a backhanded compliment.
It’s not like anyone expected much from a movie that’s based on a board game, and it didn’t help that the trailers made it look a lot like the “Transformers” movies (which, like “Battleship,” were also based on Hasbro products). But the fact that it works as well as it does is due to director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “The Kingdom,” “Hancock”), who proudly took a cue from Michael Bay to deliver a rousing, flag-waving, absurd and very loud $211-million crowd-pleaser that literally fires on all cylinders. It’s supposed to be a big, dumb, fun popcorn movie, and by those standards, it’s right on target.
What if astronomers sent a radio message into outer space and invited aliens to visit the Earth? What if they took us up on the offer? What if they weren’t very friendly? Those are just some of the questions that are answered the hard way in “Battleship,” when an alien armada lands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii, and the U.S. Navy is all that stands in their way. But when the U.S. warships prove to be no match against the advanced alien technology, an underachieving naval officer (Taylor Kitsch) rises to the occasion, takes a floating museum out of mothballs and vows to fight back.
“Battleship” is a little slow-going for the first 30 minutes, but once the action kicks in, it doesn’t let up again until it’s all over. During that time, it has as much in common with the “Transformers” movies as it does with “Armageddon,” “War of the Worlds,” “Battle: Los Angeles” and even the patriotic, gung-ho spirit of “Top Gun.” So while it’s all been done before, the action scenes and special effects are still very impressive, and it’s all so much fun that you can’t help but surrender to its upbeat spirit.
And while no one goes to a spectacle like this to admire the actors, it’s safe to say that Taylor Kitsch fares much better here than he did in last spring’s box office bomb “John Carter.” Brooklyn Decker plays his love interest and provides the necessary eye candy as the token bombshell, while music star Rihanna (making her feature film debut) does fine with a role that requires very little of her acting skills. As for Liam Neeson, he’s in a few scenes for what amounts to a paycheck movie for him.
It’s been a while since I really trashed a movie in a long-form review, so I was kind of looking forward to getting all medieval on “Battleship.” But about halfway through it, I couldn’t resist it anymore. I gave in, and I’m glad I did – it was fun. And if this is what happens when I lower my expectations, maybe I should lower them more often.
Verdict: SEE IT!
-- Scott Mantz