Battleship Conquers Action-Movie Fatigue
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2012 18 May
DVD Release Date: August 28, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: May 18, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Run Time: 131 min.
Director: Peter Berg
Actors: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, Tadanobu Asano, Jesse Plemons, Gregory D. Gadson, Adam Godley, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol
The summer movie season started with a bang two weeks ago, as Marvel’s The Avengers demonstrated how a skilled writer and director (Joss Whedon) could elevate material that, according to earlier entries in the Marvel series, made for little more than mechanical filmmaking. What could have been crass, two-dimensional material instead was lively, fun and full of energy.
Battleship, directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) and written by Erich and Jon Hoeber (who wrote the awful Whiteout), is closer to the soulless action filmmaking we’ve come to expect from big summer movies. Like earlier hit films based on products from toymaker Hasbro—Transformers and G.I. Joe—Battleship (inspired by the classic board game of the same name) is full of sound and fury, signifying very little other than the ability to astonish, then pulverize, audiences with intense scenes of massive destruction. Still, it’s impressive in its own way, and will appeal to audiences who can tolerate the voluble, violent, high-stakes battle at the center of the film.
That battle is a long time coming. Battleship takes its time establishing its characters and their relationships. There’s Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter), a bad boy who can’t seem to straighten up, even as his brother (Alexander Skarsgård, Melancholia), commanding officer of the USS Sampson, tries to model responsible behavior. Alex would rather hang out at the bar and woo lookers like Sam (Brooklyn Decker, Just Go with It), demonstrating his foolishness by promising to acquire a burrito for her, even if that means breaking into a convenience store and trying to outrun the cops.
Battleship then shifts to a Naval competition and the thwarted attempts of Alex, a naval weapons officer, to ask permission of Sam’s father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson, Unknown), to marry his daughter. Somewhere along the way, aliens arrive, smashing through Hong Kong and into the Pacific Ocean.
These aliens don’t come in peace. They send up a force field and start destroying ships. Soon Alex finds himself in command of a diminished fighting force, battling an enemy that seems impossible to defeat. Humankind’s survival will come down to Alex’s newfound leadership skills, quick thinking and the assistance of some elderly Navy veterans. Music star Rihanna is along for the ride as a weapons specialist, as is real-life U.S. Army Col. Gregory D. Gadson, who lost both his legs in Iraq and whose artificial limbs are as impressive to behold as any of the film’s special-effects creations.
But why waste more words explaining the story? If you want a great story, with multi-dimensional characters, Battleship is not the movie for you. Nor will you find much about religion in Battleship, even as its characters face the imminent prospect of death. The closest the film gets to the contemplation of the afterlife is a character who says, “We’re all gonna die. Just not today.”
If, instead, you’re looking for a big, loud summer action extravaganza that overwhelms your senses and dares you to enjoy the ride, this may be the movie for you. While it doesn’t deliver the unexpected, jingoistic jolt of Act of Valor, Battleship can be a pro-military, rousing and patriotic moviegoing experience.
But if you pay for a ticket, be careful about the message you’re sending to Hollywood: You may soon find yourself lining up to see film versions of Hasbro’s The Game of Life, Lite-Brite and Jenga.
- Language/Profanity: “Oh my God”; “a-s”; “da-n”; “oh s-it”; “dam-it”; “mother…“; “hell.”
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Some scenes of drinking.
- Sex/Nudity: Kissing; a man in a tub, with his private parts covered by ice; a man is wrapped in a towel from the waist down.
- Violence/Crime: Breaking and entering; a man is Tasered; a person is kicked in the face; long scenes of combat and destruction; punching an alien.
Marriage/Religion: A man tries to find a way to ask a man permission to marry the man’s daughter.
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.