“Battleship” is terrible by almost every standard used to measure the quality of a movie, but is it also ridiculously fucking entertaining. You can tell that this is director Peter Berg’s (“The Rundown”) chance to play with big boy toys—real life ships and giant robots from space—and you feel how giddy he is as he takes each and every opportunity to live out a child’s dream on a grand scale. That glee runs throughout “Battleship”, and even as you groan about every questionable action and every line they give Liam Neeson in the film, it is infectious.
The most endearing thing about “Battleship” is that while it is one of the dumbest movies you’ll ever see outside of Saturday night on SyFy, it fully embraces that fact. Seriously, the catalyst for the entire plot is a microwave chicken burrito. No joke, that’s what jumpstarts the entire movie. Early on when Hopper (Channing Tatum lookalike Taylor Kitsch, “John Carter”) breaks into a convenience store to steal said chicken burrito for Sam (Brooklyn Decker), a girl he’s trying to pick up, and the theme song from “The Pink Panther” comes on, something clicks. Right there you realize—if you hadn’t already noticed in the previews—that “Battleship” is going to be big, dumb, brash, and that’s where your expectations should hover. In every moment of high tension Berg uses an AC/DC song for punctuation, which only seals his film’s absurdity.
Embracing the limitations of “Battleship” will help you get over things like stunningly massive plot holes—gaps you can pilot a Navy destroyer through—the fact that Rihanna should never say more than one syllable at a time (when she says “boom” and pulls a trigger, that’s okay), and that the movie is so PG-13 characters aren’t even allowed to properly finish a zinger. There is something left to be desired when a character says, “Maholo, mother…” and then there’s an explosion. It’s reminiscent of how they cut off John McClane’s signature, “Yippie Ki-Yay, Motherfucker” line in “Live Free or Die Hard”. The moment feels incomplete.
If nothing else, “Battleship” is in constant motion, and that helps keep your attention from lingering too long on the specifics. That’s when things go south. When you first meet Hopper he’s a loser, living on his brother’s (Alexander Skarsgard) couch, getting arrested for stealing that chicken burrito we spoke of earlier. Berg and writers Eric and Jon Hoeber hammer the “you’re wasting your potential” nail over and over and over again, and then they drive in one more, just to make sure you get the point. Joining the Navy, however, straightens him out, a bit. He still has a problem with authority, he’s banging Sam, who happens to be the Admiral’s (Neeson) daughter Sam, and he’s about to get kicked out of the Navy for punching a Japanese ship captain after a soccer game.
Basically Hopper is still screwed, but you know what will show everyone? Saving the world from a bunch hostile invading aliens, that’s what. The movie is going along, minding its own business, then ALIENS. There are cheesy lines about duty and saving the world, a contrived way to turn the action into an epic rendition of the board game “Battleship”, the unnecessary girlfriend, deaths of characters you don’t really care about to illicit an emotional response, and every action movie cliché you can name, all taken to an illogical extreme. There are so many explosions. Aliens explode; ships explode. Most of the 131 minute run time is shit blowing up. And you get to see a man with no legs fistfight an alien with a goatee, so there’s that.
I can’t in good conscience tell you that you should go see “Battleship”, because it is god awful in many, many ways—most ways, in fact—and should be avoided in most situations. But I kind of want you to see this in the theater. It’s funny from end to end, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. There is a blatant “Titanic” moment, a “Star Trek” moment, and the aliens look like rather “Transformery”. If you live in a town with a theater that serves alcohol, or if you’re willing to flaunt the rules and sneak in a flask and some buddies, “Battleship” might be a good time. It’s not one of those movies that looks dumb but is smarter than you give it credit for, no, this is a movie based on a board game that has absolutely no story to it. But Berg and company simply shrug off that fact, like fuck it, this is our movie, we’re gonna get silly up in here. There’s something to be said for that.
Peter Berg (director)/Jon Hoeber (writer)/Eric Hoeber (writer)
CAST: Taylor Kitsch…Alex Hopper
Liam Neeson…Admiral Shane
Alexander Skarsgard…Stone Hopper
Rihanna…Petty Officer Raikes