In a summer filled with sequels (The Dark Knight Rises, American Reunion) and reboots (The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall) it should be refreshing that a big budget action film is being released that doesn’t have a number or Roman Numeral at the end of its title.
This week sees the release of Peter Berg’s Battleship, a big budget (and by ‘BIG’ we mean $250+ million) CGI-fest that was released last month in Europe and Asia and finally gets the North American premiere treatment on May 18th.
Loosely based on the Hasbro game of the same name, Battleship stars Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård and Rhianna in an action packed story about a fleet of naval warships who happen across an alien fleet while out on a Naval war exercise.
Battleship opens with a straight forward explanation into the Beacon Project which has the human race attempting to communicate with another planet very similar to our own (bad mistake). With the Beacon Project helping with the ‘whys’ of the film, Berg moves to the ‘whos’ and we are introduced to Alex and Stone Hooper (Taylor Kitsch and Skarsgård respectively).
Alex is the younger and is assigned to the USS John Paul Jones as a Lieutenant and Stone is a Commanding Officer of the USS Sampson. One is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy (Alex) while the other is the career Navy-man who takes things way too seriously.
We spend what will be considered eons of time in developing these cardboard characters until we finally get to sea and Alex heads out in a raft to investigate an alien object that seems to be floating without purpose.
The floating object is in fact an alien ship and it jettisons an arsenal that immediately sinks a few of the Navy’s prized ships. Then, before you can say “Hungry, Hungry Hippos”, a war between the alien ships, their race and the Navy counter attack explodes onto the screen.
I could say more about how the plot unfolds, but it doesn’t. Battleship is not a complicated origami script of complex characters and intelligent Naval decisions. Instead, it is a mindless ode of Michael Bay’s Transformers that seems content on blowing up as much shit as it can in its waaaayyy too long running time of almost two-and-a-half hours.
Good news for action fans is that it blows up things well. Real well. Ships are sunk, aliens are killed and cities are devastated in spectacular fashion. The attack and subsequent fate of the USS John Paul had us at the edge of our seats and the sound as pounded from the Dolby Surround Speakers deafened an action hungry audience.
Once commenced, the action propels the film almost to a point of suffocation. Unfortunately, the only breaks we get from things going boom have our characters uttering some groanable dialogue or reacting in ways that make me scared to think that these macho-types of youngsters have the ability to act with a Nation’s arsenal.
We do get to see the aliens and I wish we hadn’t. Showing the ‘alien behind the curtain’ was the worst thing about Signs, Independence Day and War of the Worlds and is a mistake in Battleship. I assume their featuring is an attempt to sell toys, but I really wish these Halo outfitted beasts stayed hidden behind their sophisticated ship hardware.
Bringing some credence to the project is actor Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane. Neeson gets near top billing, but he is only in the film for about 15 minutes (we think less) and his reappearance was not something that was either expected or appreciated.
I don’t think Battleship will have issues recouping its rather large production budget. Kids go to summer movies to see things get blown up and Peter Berg (who seems lost in a career that includes direction of Friday Night Lights, Hancock, The Kingdom and The Rundown) does that ad nausea in Battleship ensuring that the best scenes are shown in slow motion and that no audience member leaves a theatre wishing there was more destruction.
It should come to no one’s surprise that the humans luck out into finding a way to beat their better armed adversaries. What might come as a surprise is how little you will care by the time the journey gets to the turning point.
There is a secret scene at the end of the credits that set things up in the usual blockbuster fashion for a potential sequel. We just hope that a screenwriter and not simply someone who played the game is hired to pen anything that continues our struggles against a superior alien race.
Don’t get us wrong, Battleship was a fun film. Better than 2012 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. But it could have been more with less. Less explosions, less stupid dialogue, less running time and less supporting characters that do nothing but add to the playbill. And unfortunately, seeing that Battleship feels so much like a Transformers sequel, it doesn’t feel fresh. Just loud.
Maybe Ker-Plunk the movie will get it right.