Movie Review: Battleship
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
"Battleship," based on the (yes, really) Hasbro board game, doesn't seem like a motion picture as much as the result of a series of dares.
The Peter Berg-helmed beast is more than an answer to the question "Can you make a movie based on a children's game?" (Answer: Depends on your definitions of "based" and "movie.")
It also takes bets on such topics as: How much money can you spend? (About $200 million.) Can the actors keep a straight face throughout or at least not look bored? (More or less.)
How can a movie be made insipid and yet make people feel vaguely unpatriotic for thinking it so? (Actually, that one is a tradition stretching back to, say, "The Longest Day," but I digress.)
Can we make it look and feel like we know it's idiotic while embracing the idiocy? (Eh ...)
And most important, how do we work in the game?
Berg took on all these bets and delivers like a hovercraft dropping off Marines, which is different from making a good movie.
It's hard to fault the guy who gave us "Friday Night Lights" for a) taking the money and running on a blockbuster or b) employing some old "Friday Night Lights" friends. That doesn't make "Battleship" any less inane.
We open in Hawaii, because that is where they keep the Navy. Goof-off Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, and you better believe we miss his hair) is almost hauled off to jail attempting to impress a gal with the amazing "movie" name of Samantha Shane (Austinite Brooklyn Decker), daughter of fleet commander Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson, working actor).
Hopper's older brother is Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård, so much taller than Kitsch it is downright comical), who forces his brother to join the Navy, essentially by saying, "You are going to join the Navy."
Hopper is good at his job as a weapons officer on the destroyer USS John Paul Jones, but he's still a screw-up who continues to court Shane. Then: Aliens attack. Also, Rihanna is in it (which would be fine, except that, given her real-world problems with Chris Brown, seeing her get punched by an alien is oddly upsetting).
Through a series of contrivances that are genuinely impressive in their hoop-jumping, only Alex and a new ally can save the day, along with some on-island help from Shane and a retired Army veteran and amputee (wounded warrior and motivational speaker Gregory D. Gadson).
"Battleship" pays rapid-fire tribute to generations of summer blockbusters. From the soccer game with some rivals-that-must-become-friends to the loving shots of Navy ships, there's plenty of "Top Gun" in here, along with nods to "Independence Day" (alien invasion), "Predator" (the shape and movement of said aliens) and, well, "Pearl Harbor" (Navy ships getting blown up CGI-style).
And it is nice to see some old faces from Austin. Kitsch is perfectly fine, and "Friday Night Lights" veteran Jesse Plemons is very funny as a shipman friend of Hopper's, essentially his "FNL" character Landry in the Navy. (One wonders if he formed a new version of Crucifictorious on the USS John Paul Jones.)
Oddly, the moments where clever and cheesy match up perfectly involves working in the grid from the old board game and using an actual, old-school battleship, a retired class, not to mention the fact that the alien missiles are dead-ringers for the game's red pegs. Ahem.
But that can't help the barrage of script clichés that come at you like tracer fire, nor can it change the fact that nobody actually says, "You sank my battleship!"
Contact Joe Gross at 912-5926