Battleship Review

poster from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

There are two decent looking movies opening this week: The Dictator and What to Expect When You’re Expecting, plus my theater has also brought in the hilarious British comedy Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. So you might be wondering: why in the name of all that is holy did I choose to see Battleship instead? I chose Battleship for the same reason we all slow down to gawk at car crashes – because I just couldn’t help myself. That Battleship would be a trainwreck seemed certain from the previews:

A young Navy lieutenant and his pouty friend find that their battleship is Earth’s only hope when they are suddenly attacked by an alien fleet.

The whole “massive alien invasion” thing has been done before in about a million other movies, among them The Avengers, Independence Day, and Transformers 3. But (brace yourself) Battleship is not as bad as Transformers 3. In fact, there were times when I was laughing WITH the movie rather than AT the movie.

There are several reasons why I enjoyed myself at this movie. The first is that the hero, Navy Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), is dumber than a box of rocks. He wins over his girlfriend by getting arrested (seriously) and is only saved from getting kicked out of the Navy by the fact that everyone who remembers all his dumbass mistakes has been killed by aliens.

Taylor Kitsch as Alex Hopper from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Alex says, after his entire fleet is wiped out by an alien spaceship.

This is the part where I was laughing WITH the movie, because it knows that Alex is a dumbass. Writers Erich and Jon Hoeber made him that way. And when this early part was over, I kept on laughing because Battleship itself is also dumber than a box or rocks and makes about as much sense as one too. Alex has an uptight brother (Alexander Skarsgard) whose name is Stone, like he just walked out of a romance novel or perhaps the “how to name a news anchor” page of America the Book.

Alexander Skarsgard as Stone Hopper from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

STONE: Alex, who do I call to teach you humility?
ME: Aliens?

Hiking on a mountain nearby is a huge black guy named Mick (Gregory D. Gadson) who has prosthetic legs and needs the kind of self esteem boost that comes from winning a boxing match with an alien. Conveniently, there’s a communications array the aliens want nearby. Alex’s hot blonde girlfriend Sam (Brooklyn Decker) is conveniently with Mick to provide tension (or it would create tension if I actually cared about what happened to her).

Mick and Sam from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

Now all we need is an science obligatory nerd!
Oh wait, there’s one of those too!

In fact, I don’t really care about anyone in this movie except Japanese Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), whom Alex is forced to work with during the crisis, and that’s mostly because he’s cute and the two of them have a “we were rivals but now we’re buddies” thing going on when their ship gets destroyed.

Nagata and Hopper from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

Hold on Rose! Don’t let go!

The rest of the acting is almost universally stilted and awkward. Alex is about as warm and loving as a robot in his love scene with his girlfriend, the secondary characters deliver their lines like they’re just reading them for the first time out loud in a school play rehearsal, and Rihanna has one facial expression: durrr.

Rihanna from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

I’d say she should stick to singing, but I don’t think she’s good at that either.

The aliens are no better. They’re big and loud and ugly and want to destroy the world for no other reason than that it’s there, like a giant, violent, intergalactic version of Edmund Hillary. They only attack when they’re shot at first, except where there are Navy bases and bridge pylons involved, because a) the movie requires Alex’s ship to be the only ship left, so they had to get rid of that pesky base full of helicopter gunships and b) Peter Berg really wanted to collapse a highway overpass and make a big mess.

Alien ship vs Navy ship from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

More explosions! Spend more money!!

Most of the alien hardware is ripped off of the Metroid games. The alien ships, which hop around in the water like giant mechanical frogs, look like Samus Aran’s ship, their suits look like her armor, and the weapons they fire are just giant morph balls that chainsaw their way through everything the thin plot requires destroyed.

Morph Balls vs Destroyer from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

After hitting this ship, these balls might get their climbing upgrade.

They even borrow a page out of the Battlestar Galactica playbook when they wipe out all the modern ships and force their heroes to set sail in a museum ship, which is probably the most (unintentionally) funny moment in the movie. Not only is this steam powered museum ship conveniently pre-staffed by battle-ready old Second World War veterans, but it’s also pre-loaded with live ordinance, presumably for safety reasons.

on the old ship from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

Now all we gotta do is fill this baby up at the steam station and we can be on our way!

When I first heard that Battleship was going to be based on a board game, I thought the only connection between this movie and that game would be the fact that there are ships in both of them, which is good, because a movie about a bunch of guys sitting around a screen firing blindly at each other would be a) boring and b) stupid. And I was right, but not about the part where Battleship is nothing like the game. They actually do the “E7” “miss!” part, and it’s much dumber than even I could have imagined.

firing from the Universal Pictures film Battleship

You sunk my battleship!

My extraordinary glee at watching this movie fail to make sense raises the question: if I’m enjoying myself, does that mean Battleship can’t be called a bad movie? No, of course not. It’s still terrible. But since I actually had fun watching it be loud and terrible, that means it’s not a waste of time. Therefore only fair way this movie can be scored is on a scale suggested by my friend Steph. I give it four out of five explosions.

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