If “Battleship” screenwriters Erich and Jon Hoeber had worked to force the iconic line “You sunk my battleship!” somewhere into this two-hour-plus monstrosity, it might’ve made things a little less ridiculous.
Based (sort of) on the Hasbro board game, the big-budget “Battleship” is over the top in all the wrong ways. Its battle scenes are never-ending and excessive, its script trades in clichéd action-movie exchanges, and the setup to the movie’s climax is unbelievable even if you go along with the silliness that came before it.
Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) — dragged into the Navy by his brother (Alexander Skarsgard) — is the typical talented-but-irresponsible loose cannon who frustrates the all-business Adm. Shane (Liam Neeson). After Hopper gets in a fight, Adm. Shane tells Hopper that his days in the Navy are probably nearing an end. Adm. Shane also happens to be the father of Alex’s girlfriend, Sam (Brooklyn Decker), and Hopper is trying to summon the courage to ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Then, while Alex and his brother, a naval commander, are taking part in a war games event for the international maritime exercise RIMPAC (the Rim of the Pacific Exercise) off the coast of Hawaii, aliens attack.
OK, so there’s a little more setup than that. We learned earlier that a NASA satellite station in Hawaii has been sending out a signal to a distant planet, simply called Planet G, that’s believed to possibly contain intelligent life. Responding to the signal, five vessels, presumably from Planet G, head to Earth. One crashes in Hong Kong; the others land in the water within striking distance of the RIMPAC exercise. After being discovered, the aliens erect an impenetrable field in the water, trapping the RIMPAC ships in with them.
And then… well, loud, explosion-laden battles ensue, and keep on going. Attrition puts Lt. Hopper in charge of the operation, and on board the USS John Paul Jones, he teams with the Japanese captain he got in the fight with (Tadanobu Asano) to show resourcefulness in the face of the humans’ obvious disadvantages. There are more gun battles, more alien encounters, and more explosions. Back on land, Sam is part of a three-person effort to shut down the NASA signal station so the aliens can’t “phone home.” More stuff blows up.
“Battleship’s” obvious reference point for its action is “Independence Day,” but it misses that 16-year-old film’s entertainment value by miles. In fact, about halfway through, things just get completely tiresome. But just when you thought they couldn’t possibly get any sillier, the setup to the final battle (arguably) tops everything that came before it. Meanwhile, the script comes across as a parody of about every action film ever made (sample signature scene-ending line of impact: “Not today”).
Positives are hard to come by. There is some camp value, intentional and otherwise, in all this; if “Battleship’s” running time had been closer to 100 minutes than 131, it might’ve had a chance to break some people’s future “so bad it’s awesome” lists. Neeson plays agreeably as the hardass Adm. Shane and has some entertaining moments early in the film before being all but shelved for the rest of it; more of him would’ve helped. In case you’re wondering, neither the supermodel (Decker, who’s also in the new “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”) nor the pop star (Rihanna, who plays Petty Officer Cora Raikes) are winning Oscars anytime soon, but neither one really wrecks things any further in the type of film where acting is always secondary.
Most people can use a good summer movie action fix now and then. In the right hands, those movies can be as fun to see in the theater as any type of film. But “Battleship” is just bad, overblown and obnoxious.