Years of bad buzz have been leading to today’s release of Battleship, and it’s hard not to see where the hate is coming from. How desperate is Hollywood for intellectual property (and I use the word “intellectual” very lightly in this case) when it picks a board game completely devoid of story for a $200 million dollar film? No matter how good the film could be, I think we all at least sort of want to see this thing bomb at the box office.
But now that we have an actual movie to judge, is the film Battleship as pathetic as the circumstances that led to its greenlight? I guess not. Battleship is a force to be reckoned with, though that doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile one.
The movie bred for box office takes the set-up of the board game Battleship – two naval forces attacking each other – and inserts aliens. Because, sure, why not.
The aliens catch the human race’s radio waves seeking out intelligent life and decide to attack, because that’s what aliens do. This takes a wide and colorful collection of Hawaiians, including Rihanna, by surprise when their ships drop into the ocean outside of Oahu, and it’s up to these unprepared humans to somehow save the world (SPOILER ALERT: they do).
It’s rare to see Hollywood follow the manual on the Tentpole Action movie as directly as director Peter Berg does here, but Battleship takes the formula and amplifies it to be so loud that it feels like you should have to type movie’s title with Caps Lock on. The movie rarely decelerates, punching out shots and bangs with all the subtlety of the AC/DC song that scores the getting-ready-to-fight montage.
Usually, going big on this kind of film produces so much noise as to be unintelligible, as everyone’s favorite punching bag Michael Bay has proven on many occasions. But Berg manages to keep most of the film from being lost in the shuffle of razor-bombs and what-not. A majority of the action is dulled by the Battleship‘s overstuffing of thrills – but given how massive Berg goes with this movie, inevitably there are also legitimately exciting moments that break through.
The most enjoyable aspect to Battleship – aside from eating up the second-hand dialogue passed down from crud-kicking action movies of yore – is watching for all the intricate and needless references to the source material. For what it’s worth (and, for the record, that is practically nothing), the screenwriters managed to make the film resemble the game as much as possible – with alien bombs that resemble the red and white pegs you lost so many of when you were a kid, and a decent grid-based battle fought from an X- and Y- axis chart.
Battleship isn’t a complete joke – it works on a few more levels than you would expect given its pedigree. But the movie doesn’t accomplish enough to disown the reputation it gained before release.