May 17, 2012


When terabytes attack!

Grade: D +
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson and Tadanobu Asano
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 10 min.

Although officially based on a Hasbro’s board game, the true and more egregious inspiration for the utterly pointless Battleship is the Michael Bay formula of F/X sensory overload, insipid dialogue (“It’s been an honor serving with you, captain./The honor was all mine.”), grade school romance and rank jingoism. It’s hard to find another movie that can act as both a 2-hour-plus recruiting film for the U.S. Navy and an advertisement for Beyblades (also a Hasbro product).

Responding to deep space salutations, an alien armada splash lands in the Pacific just off the Hawaiian coast. When the terabytes start to attack, Earth’s defense falls to a stable of sailors as nondescript as the maundering invaders. Hunky Slacker (Taylor Kitsch), beau to Supermodel Actress (Brooklyn Decker) who happens to be the daughter of his Ramrod Commander (Liam Neeson), finds himself improbably in command of a ship of its crew, which includes Pop Star Moonlighting As Actor (Rihanna) and Comic Relief (Jesse Plemons).

Director Peter Berg is kind enough to afford his actors the change to exorcise some reality-based demons. Kitsch supplants John Carter as the most irksome film he’s headlined in this year, and Rihanna gets to turn a Chris Brown-by-proxy alien who bloodies her lip into literal cannon fodder.

The aliens happen to invade in conjunction with the annual RIMPAC exercises, affording Berg the ham-handed spectacle of American and Japanese sailors fighting side-by-side to defend Pearl Harbor. No matter, since the evil E.T.s are indestructible until the plot doesn’t need them to be, most notably when one ironclad predator comes to blows with a legless war hero (Gregory Gadson). While saluting wounded warriors and retired veterans is laudable, concocting ridiculous scenarios to accomplish this aim is sheer pandering. The only thing more dubious than a handful of octogenarians recommissioning the USS Missouri back into action in mere hours is the notion that Big Mo is still housing live armaments even after being converted into a floating museum

And don’t even bother to ask why the aliens can destroy most of Hong Kong, Hawaii and the bulk of the Pacific fleet without breaking a sweat yet are somehow bested a single ship, their ragtag crew and their accidental captain’s physical therapist girlfriend. Or why the aliens didn’t bring reinforcements from the start. Or when deep space radio signals started to resemble laser beams.

Battleship is for folks who think Transformers had too much plot complexity and Pearl Harbor didn’t have nearly enough flag-waving. The lone nod to the actual game comes when a computer map displays a grid of underwater buoys to track the movement of alien ships. Otherwise, there is more aptitude in trying to decide whether to plug a peg into B-3 or F-7 than this loud, mind-numbing shipwreck.

Neil Morris

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