Friday, May 18, 2012
It turns out that we all spent our childhoods playing Battleship wrong. Instead of sitting on our living room floors or at our kitchen tables calling out coordinates, we should have been on Navy destroyers firing all kinds of artillery at alien invaders. And Brooklyn Decker should have been there.
Making the leap from board game to big screen, Battleship is a blast. It's a loud, bombastic movie with a great deal of swagger. The movie knows that its job isn't to win awards or capture the hearts of critics — its here to entertain. And entertain it does.
The movie wastes very little time in getting to the action. Yeah, we have to go through some trivial character and plot exposition in the beginning. There's Taylor Kitsch's Alex Hooper, the wayward brother of Alexander Skarsgård's Stone. Despite somehow working his way up the ranks of the U.S. Navy, Alex is a screwup, but he's in love Sam (Decker), who just happens to be the Admiral's (Liam Neeson) daughter. Got that? Good. Plot and character development is pretty much out of the way now. Which leaves roughly two hours for explosions. And, sometimes, that's all you're looking for in a movie, right?
Battleship is the movie that Pearl Harbor wished it could've been. The action is spectacular, with top-notch special effects bringing the human tech-versus-alien weaponry set pieces to life. Destroyers are blown up, self-aware shredding probes tear apart highways — the aliens in Battleship did not come to mess around.
Director Peter Berg and his writers even find a way to bring the classic game into the movie, with the alien barrier cutting off sonar abilities, forcing the characters to turn to a giant grid with tsunami warning buoys sending responses of where alien ships might be hiding. And, yes, the characters actually call out coordinates. Miss? Hit.
Battleship is a giant love letter to the U.S. Navy and the rest of the armed forces. Real soldiers are featured in many of the movie's scenes, and U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gadson, a real-life double amputee, plays a pivotal role in the the defense of Hawaii against the aliens. It's quite the contrast to see men who have sacrificed their bodies in defense of America acting along side of people who play pretend for a living.
Unfortunately, it seems like Battleship is going to run into a force more powerful than those aliens this weekend — The Avengers. Marvel's superhero goliath is sure to dominate the box office again, keeping Battleship from reaching its full potential. Kitsch, despite his best efforts, will have two box office disappointments in one season on his hands now, which is too bad, since just as he carried John Carter, he's very good in Battleship. Hopefully studios give him a couple more chances, market his movies right and stay away from The Avengers next time.
If you've seen The Avengers but still want to go see a movie this weekend that allows you to cheer on a bunch of heroes as they protect Earth against an alien menace, Battleship is your movie.