Movie Review: ‘Battleship’

May 19, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
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A ship's crew gathers on deck in 'Battleship'.(ILM/Universal Pictures)

If ever a movie had “Paid for in full by the U.S. Navy” written all over it—it would be Battleship. Based on the Hasbro toy company’s game of the same name, Battleship is an unabashed, movie-length Navy recruitment vehicle. That being said, Battleship might eventually nudge The Avengers out of the top spot for 2012’s leading summer blockbuster. Between the two, it’s surprisingly more fun.

Whether a shameless military recruitment film is a good thing is always an interesting question. Battleship may be the most blatantly shameless ever.

The NASA “Beacon project” is looking for “Goldilocks” situations in deep space. There are other planets out there orbiting suns. Some are too far from their sun and thus too cold, others are too close and too hot, and the one that’s “just right” must be like our planet Earth. So let’s beam some info to the possible humanoid life forms on those “just right” planets. Oh wait, but what if they then pinpoint our location and send some aliens back our way to do some reconnaissance? Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Hopper (Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights fame) is the loose-cannon rebel younger brother of a Navy officer (Alexander Skarsgard). While celebrating his birthday, he gets tasered by cops after an inebriated attempt to impress the cute chick at the bar. He eventually gets the girl (Brooklyn Decker) but can’t face up to asking her dad (Liam Neeson) for her hand in marriage. Dad happens to be a Navy admiral.

So little brother joins the Navy. We can tell because “Navy” is stenciled everywhere. He leapfrogs to a high command (never mind how) but remains highly annoying to his hopefully future father-in-law. Eventually he comes to command a destroyer. This means it’s time to grow up, destroy some aliens (yep, they found us and their intentions aren’t good), attain manhood, and earn the admiral’s respect.

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Taylor Kitsch watches as an alien invader rises from the Pacific Ocean in the science fiction action-thriller 'Battleship.' (ILM/Universal Pictures)

The humans are ridiculously technically out-classed by the aliens, of course, but our trick is that we are very wily and utilize American low-tech ingenuity, including a fictitious but impressive Navy-destroyer version of a spinning back-kick. We show them who’s who. The world will be saved.

Battleship is tailored kitsch—tailored to sway the latent inner warrior of male teens, that is. Taylor Kitsch does a good job of this. At one point, he explains to a breathless youth the difference between battleships and destroyers. The youth is immediately overwhelmed by the coolness. The reviewer almost was too.

That sort of thing, along with “Top Gun”-like shots of Navy fighter jets doing carrier landings and massive aircraft carriers in full throttle, all accompanied by the hard rock band AC/DC’s slamming power chords, stirs up testosterone handily. It’s a movie version of the recent military commercial featuring Kid Rock hollering, “I’m an American warrior!” If you’re a male, part of you knee-jerk reflexively goes, “Awesome!” and your eyes bug out a little bit.

The movie opens in similar down-home, cozy Americana fashion to the first Transformers and has much in common with that film, including a stunning beauty (Brooklyn Decker) and aliens. Speaking of beauty, this is not the type of movie where you talk about the acting, but more about the attractiveness of everyone. Pop star Rihanna successfully makes her movie debut of good-lookingness.

It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s got explosions galore, pretty good humor, and fairly seamless CGI. It tells yet another version of humans’ fear of alien invasion. Battleship basically says, “Join the Navy! Blow stuff up! Rid the world’s oceans of aliens!” Isn’t that false advertising? Like there’re alien spacecraft in the ocean? C’mon now. It’d be interesting to see the Navy recruitment stats six months from now, though.

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