Entertainment :: Movies

Battleship

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Wednesday May 16, 2012
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Kitsch and Rihanna outthink alien baddies in "Battleship"
Kitsch and Rihanna outthink alien baddies in "Battleship"  

I can’t wait for "Connect Four" the musical, or "Chutes and Ladders," the film. Perhaps aliens can come to Earth on large ladder-like spaceships and threaten human extinction by sliding down their ships onto our heads en masse. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Hollywood continues to leverage long-in-the-tooth pop culture phenomena as the springboard for feature films; but the affiliation between "Battleship" the film and the original Hasbro game is about as amorphous as one could get. Apart from one sequence midway through the film, the one has literally nothing to do with the other; instead, "Battleship" offers up a redundant, derivative alien attack movie that’s logical rubbish but, truth be told, a significant source of dumb fun.

The premise is ridiculous: a decade ago, scientists, having discovered an earth-like planet in space, began sending signals to it via oversized satellite dishes - and that innocent phone call has come home to roost big-time. When aliens drop a number of transformer-esque warships into the Pacific Ocean and erect a large force-field around Hawaii, the fate of the world suddenly rests on the shoulders of Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, having somehow survived the box office massacre of "John Carter"), his big brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), and Rihanna, who here has turned in her microphone for Navy weapons control. When things don’t go well for Stone, Alex gets sort of angry and fixes his brain, heretofore utilized largely for wooing a loose blonde (Brooklyn Decker) and wreaking havoc on his nascent military career, to kicking E.T.’s ass.

It’s "Independence Day" meets "Transformers" all over again, folks, albeit with the most ridiculous plot yet; there are more logical loopholes in this sucker than in "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Even director Peter Berg’s work is derivative, borrowing every slo-mo action shot and CGI trick from the likes of Michael Bay. And its bevy of one-dimensional characters, while they render the film easy to digest, are at best modestly likable.

All of which would be disastrous were it not for the fact that the film is just so fun; its heady combination of CGI wizardry, self-deprecating acting (particularly from Skarsgard and Liam Neeson) and fanboy mentality keeps the film afloat. The alien invaders are a nasty group, even if they’re not terribly original in any way, and they provide sufficient menace that we even cheer for Rihanna as she manages to push "launch" buttons with aplomb. Surprisingly, Kitsch turns in an appealing performance, offsetting his emotionally-inept titular performance in "John Carter," and the film wisely hits an effective emotional note with a third-act sequence featuring the defunct USS Missouri - replete with aging seamen.

In all, "Battleship" is hardly the right fit for filmgoers looking for innovative excitement at the Cineplex; we’ve seen all this before. But for those seeking delightfully dumb summer escapism, it’s pure Hollywood magic.

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his husband and daughter in Dedham MA.

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