It’s big, loud, dumb and sloppy. It’s top-heavy with clichés and powered by that shopworn superior-alien-force-attacks-underdog-Earthlings scenario. But Battleship, in due course, wins the fight to deliver the right summer-action-special effects movie stuff.
Hasbro’s naval-combat game, Battleship, inspired this An Officer and a Gentleman meets Independence Day at sea. Much of the movie is a game pitting the U.S. Navy and a visiting Japanese naval officer against an advance alien force sent to prepare the way for invasion, conquest and, as one scientist in the film puts it, an extinction-level event.
Before the movie devotes itself to those human-smashing battles by sea, land and air, it introduces the audience to young loser Alex Hopper. Jobless, directionless and drunk, Hopper doesn’t let his lowly status keep him from making a move on a golden girl who struts into his local bar one night.
In no time, Hopper has been arrested for what must not be the first time. His high-achieving, naval officer big brother, Stone, personally drafts Hopper into the Navy. What must be a few years of real time gets condensed to seconds of movie time and, instantly, Hopper is a Navy lieutenant aboard the USS John Paul Jones.
Despite his sudden promotion, Hopper is still a mess. He’s such a mess that his girlfriend (actress-model Brooklyn Decker), the same beauty he met at the bar before being arrested, tells him he better stop messing up. She happens to be the daughter of the understandably scowling Admiral Shane, commander of the Pacific Fleet.
From a distance of many nautical miles, it’s obvious that Hopper will play an important role in saving Earth. It’s also no surprise that what happens between the entry into Earth’s atmosphere of unidentified objects and Battleship’s final credits will be frantic, fiery, chaotic, hopeless and noisy.
As if the movie’s abundant explosions aren’t loud enough, classic rock from AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Billy Squier and ZZ Top thunders from the soundtrack as well as songs by Stone Temple Pilots, the Black Keys and Dropkick Murphys.
Acting ability not being a prerequisite for admission to the film’s cast, wooden is the key word for the performances. Taylor Kitsch (TV’s Friday Night Lights, the big screen’s John Carter) leads the battle as Hopper. The script asks so little of Kitsch that it’s probably unfair to judge.
Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) co-stars as Hopper’s brother, but his role is fleeting. Music star Rihanna plays Petty Officer 2nd Class Cora Raikes. A sailor under Hopper’s command, she gets in the thick of alien hostilities, which requires her to run and shout. Liam Neeson does even less as the practically irrelevant Admiral Shane, making a few cameo appearances.
As silly, predictable and implausible as so much of Battleship is, the tide turns in its favor. The film is buoyed by that old underdog spirit and some unconventional casting. In the realm of summer movies, it offers what is to be expected.
Another big-budget, high-profile production filmed in Louisiana, Battleship’s location shooting included Baton Rouge. The film’s credits include thanks to Raleigh Studios at the Celtic Media Centre, the Baton Rouge Film Commission, East Baton Rouge Parish and the USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial.