Everyone has already pretty much put their two cents in about Universal’s odd idea to adapt the Hasbro board game Battleship into a feature film, starring Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, and a bunch of giant alien robot monster things. Given the sheer volume of critical complaint already existing, there is no need for me to opine that this was kind of a strange idea for a movie, but just because something is strange doesn’t mean it’s automatically not good, so I’ve tried to suspend my judgment and give it a fair shake.
Battleship is currently available on Blu-ray, and upon careful perusal, it’s clear that, despite the weirdness of its concept, it’s basically not a horrible steaming mess of failure. It probably didn’t need to be over two hours long, and it’s probably not going to endure throughout the ages as a towering pinnacle of its genre, but you knew going in that it was a CG robot explosion party, and it definitely doesn’t completely suck at being that.
The movie features Taylor Kitsch as Lieutenant Alex Hopper, a longhaired roustabout crashing on the couch with his older military brother (Skarsgard) and complaining constantly about not having any adult goals, responsibilities, or ambitions. Following a disturbing burrito incident, Hopper is cajoled into joining the navy, ostensibly to give him some personal direction, but also because he wants to impress a hot chick he met at a bar whose father (Liam Neeson) happens to be a high-ranking military officer.
After being told a thousand times by Liam Neeson and sundry others how sad it is that he’s squandering all his amazing smarts and potential, Hopper mouths off to his superiors one too many times and gets kicked out of the navy. Before he can turn in his white uniform and sexy sailor cap, however, Hopper and his fellow crewmembers are unexpectedly assailed in the middle of the ocean by a phalanx of huge and terrifying extraterrestrial spacecraft. With several other ships in the earthling fleet already destroyed, and his brother and superior officer dead, Hopper is forced into a position of sudden authority, and must discover a means of mobilizing his crew and thwarting what threatens to be a planet-wide invasion by angry, helmet-wearing lizard monsters.
As mentioned previously, Battleship feels a little overly long, and it doesn’t always do the greatest job of balancing the parts of the story that are character driven with its incredibly extended orgies of screeching metal and black destructive fireclouds. It’s still more tightly plotted than many similar films, however, even if it’s not a truly exemplary artifact. Its most remarkable feature is definitely the CG, which dominates for about 80% of the total screen time and is genuinely pretty impressive in certain instances. The story and characters are pretty forgettable, and for me that made the movie boring, but if you don’t care about that and just want to see a bunch of crap getting blown up by aliens then you’ll probably have a really good time.
Universal’s disc is predictably jam packed with special features, mostly behind-the-scenes and special effects related. There’s a pretty fancy digital previz of an alternate ending that ultimately wasn’t used, a cute little tour of the historical Missouri battleship that was used during the film’s climax, cast interviews, and various making-of featurettes. In lieu of commentary, there’s an “all access” feature where director Peter Berg, and other members of the cast and crew, pop up while you’re watching the film to give additional information about stuff they did while they were shooting. Battleship is a pretty innocuous action movie all told. It’s stupid and lackluster in many ways, but the effects are good, and the grating attempts at humor and characterization are kept mostly to a minimum. Credit where credit is due, I guess.