The first thing I thought when I heard someone was making a film based on the original Battleship board game from Milton Bradley (now owned by Hasbro) was, “Exactly how are they going to do that?” While Battleship isn’t the best film ever, it’s still a fun popcorn flick that doesn’t require you to think too much.
In 2005, NASA sent a message to the nearby planet Gliese 581g (20-ish light years away). Jump to current time (about 7 years later, in 2012), and scientists discover five alien objects moving toward Earth from the direction of Gliese 581g. When one of them changes directions, the various governments of the world take notice.
This brings up a science question: if they were coming from Gliese 581g, it would have taken the aliens there more than 20 years to even receive our message (since the fastest signal we can send can only travel at the speed of light), and then they would have had to travel here from there (only about 119,155,186,080,000 miles, give or take). This discrepancy is never addressed in the film, so I suspect it is one of those “suspension of disbelief” things.
The main character, free spirit Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch), has been roped into joining the Navy by his older, more responsible brother, Stone (played by Alexander Skarsgård). After the alien objects crash into the Pacific Ocean (with one being deflected by a satellite into crashing into downtown Hong Kong), three of the ships out on RIMPAC maneuvers encounter them and are damaged or destroyed. Alex’s ship, the USS John Paul Jones, is the only one of the three not sunk by the aliens, and Alex is left in command of the ship after all superior officers are killed in the attack.
The basic premise of Battleship is reasonably good, but the story was somewhat weak. This film is not Oscar material. That said, the story is just good enough to keep things moving along, and it has a few small twists and turns in it which make for pleasant surprises. The music in the film was pretty much par for the course for manly films such as this, and none of it really stood out to me as particularly memorable. The scripting of the film was also pretty average, with a fair amount of what you expect in a pretty-much-by-the-books alien invasion film.
I must be getting old, because I was turned off by the hyper-sexualized Sam Shane (played by Brooklyn Decker); I knew as soon as she walked into the bar (no, really) that she was going to be the hero’s girl. Liam Neeson did a reasonable job as Admiral Shane, Sam’s father and Commander of the Pacific Fleet. He didn’t get much screen time though, to the detriment of the film. I was not impressed by Rihanna’s acting for the most part, though she wasn’t really bad; she just wasn’t particularly good, either.
The special effects were very well done. You could feel the weight of the alien ships as they moved around, and the ways the aliens acted were sufficiently alien (and never explained, for that matter). They also were not stupid aliens. The laws of physics were generally obeyed, though a few liberties were taken with how large naval ships would move in the water, especially when jerked suddenly by an anchor. I suspect there would have been far more damage to the ship given its speed.
Overall, there was enough originality in Battleship to pull it up above mediocrity into “reasonably good, but not spectacular”. It isn’t as good as Independence Day (which I liked quite a lot), but it isn’t too far behind. I don’t know that I will buy it, but it was definitely fun to watch.
Release Date: May 18, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief social drinking)
Language: 3 (some deity, some stereotypical Navy language, two almost f-words)
Sexuality: 2 (brief kissing and make-out session)
Violence: 4 (intense violence, alien attacks, gruesome imagery, death)