Directed by Peter Berg. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano. (2012, PG-13, 130 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 18, 2012
When is a Michael Bay film not a Michael Bay film? When it's a Peter Berg film, apparently, as this CGI-laden, excrutiatingly overlong quasi-epic and total Transformers rip-off proves time and time again. Whether it's sweeping helicopter shots of the destroyer U.S.S. John Paul Jones slicing her prow through the Pacific chop like a hot knife through warm butter or formations of F-14 fighter jets swooping in to save the day, this crass and hugely dumb aliens vs. multiple earthling navies should thrill the hyperactive 10-year-old inside you. Adults, on the other hand – and especially genre-fan adults – will be bored to tears and wishing Bay (or at least Jerry Bruckheimer) had something of their own on the marquee out front.
So little information is given about the film's main characters that they're about as interchangeable as the little plastic pegs that came with the film’s namesake Sixties board game by Hasbro. Taylor Kitsch, in an opening scene ripped straight from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, is introduced as Alex Hopper, a ne'er-do-well who gets shanghaied into the U.S. Navy by his big brother. Meanwhile, up on the top of the Oahu mountains, a poorly explained government experiment to contact life on a newly discovered planet on the other side of the galaxy comes to fruition and the incoming alien visitors turn out to be (duh) less than friendly. Water war ensues.
I'm all for big, mindless, summer movie fun, but Battleship is so poorly written the dialogue alone could defeat the alien hordes if only they spoke English – or Japanese, as both the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Japanese fleet are participating in joint naval exercises (alongside some 17 other nations, whose vessels are mentioned but rarely seen). To be fair, there is a third-act surprise salvation (this isn't a spoiler, but think Pearl Harbor) that had the audience with whom I watched the film cheering in their seats, but it's hardly enough to keep this waterlogged, curiously uninvolving maritime actioner from sinking like a lead dreadnought with a breached hull.