In Battleship, the film based on the classic naval guessing game, Taylor Kitsch plays Lieutenant Alex Hopper, an unpolished navy prospect hurdled into a leadership role when aliens attack Hawaii during an international navel exercise.
These aliens as somewhat humanoid and crustaceanesque. Surprise, surprise there isn’t a great deal of thought put into them as characters. Ok, there’s isn’t any effort whatsoever. It’s a Battle Los Angeles scenario, but even less so as they’re not even here for our resources. They do have toys. I say toys because they play with the human warships and are surely designed to end up in plastic form as Walmart. There’s a ship that hops across the sea for no apparent engineering purpose. They also deploy spheres that can bifurcate anything.
I’m taken back by the amazing amount of attention to detail found in the setup for human characters. Hopper is made out to be such a goof that it’s initially a stretch to believe he’s the protagonist. He brakes into a convenience store in a scene that quite comically mimics infamous security camera footage. There’s even a soccer sequence that looks better than most sports films. Credit that to director Peter Berg of Friday Night Lights, the TV series spin-off of which produced star Kitsch. The trailer doesn’t hint at esteemed performances, but Kitsch gets it together. Hopper has a drastic arc that most films of late forget to include. His main buddy Raikes (pop superstar Rihanna) does no harm in her debut. Same goes for budding talent, supermodel Brooklyn Decker. These aren’t the most robust roles, but established actresses wouldn’t have improved upon the final product.
As par for the course the humans are hopelessly outgunned. The situation sounds more like the attack on Pearl Harbor than it appears, and the coming together of American and Japanese forces is reminiscent of the unification films that preached the North and South as Americans. This is further bolstered once the vets come on board, helping to man the USS Missouri, giving the film its titular battleship. Good luck finding a summer blockbuster with an audience this old in mind.
It’s shocking that Battleship is watchable, but even more surprising that the board game gets worked into the plot without causing eyes to roll. Calling it a popcorn movie sounds like an exception, as though it’s allowed to be stupid or shallow so long as it’s entertaining. I’m not overlooking the plot holes, and if you expect a giant production to have more refinement then Battleship isn’t going to float your boat. It does some things better than The Avengers . With comparatively lower expectations, Battleship arguably has an easier course to make good on delivering. **½