You sank my sense of logic! Battleship is one of those movies that you go in knowing it's not going to be revolutionary, but you hope it will at least be a fun, summer popcorn flick. You'll hear people say things like, "Just shut your brain off and enjoy!" The problem is, I'm tired of shutting my brain off. If that's a perquisite to watching a movie, that's never a good sign.
I'm sure you're thinking I'm getting old and cranky, and that like other critics I have no soul, but I'm getting tired of lazy-ass movies that simply try to flash a bunch of a explosions and images on screen to distract you from the fact that there really isn't anything going on. It's all the typical things that Michael Bay does, but somehow it ends up being even worse. I've heard a lot of comparisons to Skyline and I'd say that's pretty accurate as far as both movies being about alien invasions don't make any sense.
As you may have already guessed, I didn't like Battleship. This review is going to be a little more of a rant and spoiler-filled, so fair warning...
Where to even start? The movie begins with showing you that NASA has found an exoplanet in the "Goldilocks Zone". On the hope that there may be life there, a signal is transmitted, boosted by a satellite in orbit. I'm already kind of scratching my head at this because lots of exoplanets have been found in the "Goldilocks Zone." This isn't anything new, so why are we transmitting to this planet? Are we doing this for all planets we find? Is this why NASA needs more money?
Let's get the first flaw major flaw of this movie out of the way: it's way too long! It's well over two hours, yet you can walk in 30 minutes late and you wont miss anything related to the action. You're introduced to our hero, a drunk Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who breaks into a convenience store to steal a chicken burrito for Sam (Brooklyn Decker). This scene would have been funny if it wasn't a blatant ripoff of an actual burglary. Here's the clip of the actual event:
They reenact this in the movie as if it was something original. This is the kind of crap I expect to see in something from the makers of Epic Movie. Anyway, this scene is used to setup that Alex is a underachieving loser that's a disappointment to his older brother (Alexander Skarsgård), who's in the Navy. He forces Alex to enlist in order to get his act straight.
We fast forward a few years, and I can only assume it's been a few years because it's never said how much time has passed and nobody looks any older, but Alex is now somehow a lieutenant. I say 'somehow' because it's clear that he's still a screwup and he's about to get kicked out of the Navy. His last mission will be for the RIMPAC naval exercises and then he's out.
Oh, but before we get to that, we're going to watch a soccer match. Yes, you came to watch Battleship because you wanted to see a poorly shot soccer match between the US and Japanese Navy. There's no point to this sequence other than to show you that Alex doesn't get along with one of the guys from the Japanese Navy. Do you think they'll be forced to work together and respect each other by the end of the movie? Oh, the suspense!
Anyway, this is seriously the first 30-40 mintues of the film and it didn't need to be there! You can skip that first part and there's 30-40 minutes of your life you just got back. If you wanted to establish Alex's character, it would have been much easier, and taken less time, to simply start with him already in the military and show that he's the underachieving officer, who's about to be kicked out of the military for fighting or something like that. It's a much harder sell to show him as an absolute screw up even before enlisting, and then in just a short time he's advanced without seeing any character growth or maturity. They tell you several times that Alex is smart and talented, but you never see him do anything that demonstrates that.
Finally, the aliens show up as the Navy is going through their RIMPAC exercises. One of their ships is damaged entering Earth's atmosphere and causes all kinds of destruction as it crashes. These aliens can travel light-years, but I guess they don't have the ability to detect a satellite that's in its direct flight path. Anyway, they Navy investigates the ships that have safely landed in the ocean. Shortly after, the aliens attack.
The other huge problem is aliens themselves. They aren't developed at all. What do they want? It's clear they are invading, but why? They don't have a single line of dialog, so there's never a mention about needing resources or tech, biology or just wanting our planet. Their primary goal seems to be that they need to reestablish communication back home, because it's assumed that their communications ship is the one that crashed earlier. That sets up a silly subplot involving Sam and a military veteran trying to stop them. It's silly, not just because of the characters involved, but because it's ultimately pointless. We communicated with the aliens first. That's how they knew to find us. If they were capable of sending five ships to Earth, what's to stop them from sending five more, or 20? If they never hear back from their ships, you don't think at some point they aren't sending more to investigate?
One of the worst things about the aliens is that they show that they have this threat assessment display that determines whether or not they will attack or even see you. So basically, in Battleship, you can shoot an alien, but then stand still and put your gun down and there's a good chance it will ignore you. This happened several times in the film. Nevermind that they are invading the Earth for whatever reason and they're in the middle of a battle against people who have clearly fired upon them. Also, the aliens showed at other times that they had no issues with causing random destruction that affected civilian targets that posed no threat. Battleship doesn't worry about things like logic or making sense.
Their ship design was actually kind of cool though, but again, there didn't seem to be any consistency to their technology. You see times where their ships will fly and other times where they hop around in the water as if they can't sustain flight. The actual alien design was kind of silly. When the masks finally come off, they have frigging goatees. Yep, spiky goatees. Even aliens have hipsters.
Battleship has some of the worst dialog I've seen in a while. Co-written by Erich and Jon Hoeber, this movie badly needed some punch-up. Peter Berg is a capable director, but it doesn't seem like he had a lot of control over this. I have a hard time believing he thought some of the stuff that happens in the movie made any sense. How did anyone involved in this think it made any sense. There are so many things in the movie that could have been removed. Like, there's a really bad CG shot of a great white shark swimming that looked awful, but it had nothing to do with the story. Why put that in the movie? There's a point in the movie where they actually play a version of Battleship staring at display screens, as the Navy and aliens try to find each other. Really?
There are two moments in the film where someone (presumably) dies and there is absolutely no reaction from the witnessing character, even though it's someone they care about. If you don't care about your characters to show any emotion about them, I don't care about them either. Maybe this is due to hiring 'actors' incapable of expressing these types of emotions. I don't want hate on Taylor Kitsch, but this is already the second shitty sci-fi/fantasy movie he's been in this year. I get the feeling Hollywood is trying to force this guy on us. Jeremy Renner was originally attached to this role, and he wisely passed on it to be in something else. Rihanna doesn't have much to do in the movie other than to run in needless slow motion. She wasn't terrible, but they did a good job of hiding her acting. They just throw Brooklyn Decker in some tank tops and short-shorts, and then her acting consists of either smiling or making a face like she just smelled a fart.
What emotion am I trying to convey right now? Acting!
Similar to the recent Act of Valor, the cast features a lot of military veterans. Since these guys are not actors, I'm going to talk negatively about that. If you cast non-actors in speaking roles, you can't expect much. Even though he's heavily featured in the trailers, Liam Neeson maybe has a total of five minutes in the movie. He gets a pass. Same with Alexander Skarsgård, who's also barely in it. Lastly, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) shows up in a weird cameo.
In the end, Battleship is more like Battleshit. This is a perfect example of a studio trying to make something out of nothing. Actually, it was about something: product placement. After watching Battleship, I had the urge to have a Coke Zero, microwave a chicken burrito, buy an AC/DC album and maybe join the Navy. I'd love to say this is just a fun, but dumb, popcorn flick, but I couldn't even enjoy it on that level. The movie has no personality, no excitement, and nothing in it makes sense. It's barely worthy of a rental.
1 (out of 5) Death Stars