To enjoy Battleship you first really have to think about what you're sitting down to watch. It's a two-and-a-half-hour summer blockbuster based on a board game that you can play while waiting for your Oolong tea at Townshend’s. There's no back story there, no mythology that the game teases out—it's just blindly firing missiles at your opponent and winning through either luck or educated guessing. Which is fine. Pirates of the Caribbean was based on a damn Disneyland ride and still managed to be pretty great, but you can't have expectations set at that level. Think of Battleship more like it's Transformers 2 in the Pacific Ocean. But with Rihanna shooting at things.
Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a screw-up who joins the Navy in an attempt to turn his life around. A few years later he's third in command aboard a high tech Navy destroyer in Hawaii. During naval war games the U.S. is hosting with Japan, aliens crash land in the ocean and put a giant force field around the fleet and try to do...something. That's one of the biggest problems with the movie: we have no idea—nor do we ever find out—exactly what the aliens are up to. All the aliens do is destroy infrastructure and weapons. They don't fire unless fired upon and don't seem really interested in doing anything other than getting the hell off of Earth.
Was Director Peter Berg trying to create an anti-war allegory about the hostility of man toward the unknown? CCR's “Fortunate Son” playing over the closing credits made me think so, but the film is directed in such a way as to make the audience revel in the destruction. Every time something new started to explode, I found myself more engaged than when characters were talking. Maybe the script is terrible, but I think Berg just wants to have his cake and eat it too. He essentially says, “Isn't war just the pits,” and then makes everyone look awesome firing their guns in slow motion.
All of this is probably reading way too deeply into a movie that's primary purpose is to entertain. It does that in fits and starts, but it's 30 minutes too long. And since the aliens don't have any tangible objective, the stakes always feel pretty low, which kills any tension the film might have otherwise built. Berg tries to shoehorn a romance in there too, but it falls flat. It's worth renting for a buck at some point, but if you're going to the theater, you might as well just watch The Avengers again. Remember, Battleship is a movie based on a board game, and a pretty boring one at that. What did you honestly expect?
1 1/2 Stars
Directed by Peter Berg
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard and