Finally, Hollywood has produced a movie for people who found the Transformers series too intellectually challenging. This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, since Battleship is not based on a novel, or a magazine article, but a board game.
Yet even within the confines of a big, dumb summer action movie, Battleship strains the limits of credibility. Director Peter Berg has layered a veneer of patriotism and gung-ho Navy pride onto Erich and Jon Hoeber’s cardboard screenplay, in a cheesy attempt to bring gravitas to the project (and guilt to anyone who dares to knock it). Still, there’s no escaping the fact that the characters—though played by beautiful people—are strictly one-dimensional. Even a tough military veteran who’s lost his legs, and his will to live (played by real-life amputee Gregory D. Gadson), becomes a living cliché.
Taylor Kitsch, who first worked with Berg on Friday Night Lights, stars as a perpetual screw-up whose brother, straight-arrow Naval officer Alexander Skarsgård, grows tired of getting him out of jams and forces him to join the Navy. And poof! In the blink of an eye, he becomes an officer, too—although he can’t shed his hot-headed temper, which gets him in Dutch with his grim-faced Admiral (Liam Neeson), who also happens to be the father of his new girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker).
Kitsch gets to prove his mettle in the midst of a hostile alien invasion which forms the centerpiece of the picture and allows for elaborate visual effects and plenty of fiery explosions. That may be enough to please undiscriminating action fans, but for me it didn’t compensate for all the dumb dialogue and juvenile plotting.
Battleship isn’t boring, but that’s a small compliment. Or as my friend Bill Warren put it, “Saying something wasn’t as bad as I feared isn’t the same thing as saying it was good, is it?”