I use to play Battleship with my brother for hours on end when we were kids. Moving our little red pegs around and gleefully shouting “you sunk my battleship!” It was a fun way to connect with our Dad when he was off on WestPacs. We kept it readily available at all times as demonstrated by this picture of my paternal grandma and maternal grandpa starting a game.
It was obvious from the get go that any movie based on this past time would not and could not bear any resemblance to the game. There is no plot, no characters, just some gray plastic ships and a peg board. I went to see this movie for one reason and one reason only. Because movies depicting the US Navy are few and far between and I wanted to see how they depicted the life I grew up with, however unrealistic the alien plot line may be.
Beware: I try not to spoil things too much but I’m sure I do so just be warned.
The basic plotline is as follows: Guy is lazy but smart and has no direction in his life so his older brother forces (yeah right) him to join him in the Navy. Flash forward 5 years and various Naval fleets from around the world are participating in RimPac off the coast of Hawaii. Guy doesn’t like one of the Japanese Captains and the feeling is mutual. Naturally they get stranded together by aliens and have to work together to save Earth with the help of a pop star, a Power Ranger, and a guy who looks kind of like Matt Damon. Oh yeah, and there’s a subplot about his girlfriend who just happens to be the Admiral’s daughter (isn’t she always?) who is in a completely different area but also helps save the world with the help of a real life hero and Dr. Doom’s Assistant.
I very rarely look at any reviews until after I’ve seen a movie and written my own review because I want to formulate my own opinion and I usually don’t agree with those other people anyways. Even though I still have not read any of the reviews for Battleship, I went into this movie expecting to hate it. Maybe it’s because I had such low expectations but I actually really enjoyed it. It’s no Avengers but I laughed throughout while it poked fun at itself.
I could identify with this movie in a few ways. My Dad was stationed at Pearl Harbor from 1972-1976 during the tail end of the Vietnam conflict (and long before I was born). He loved it there and it was one of the few aspects of his long military career that he would discuss freely with us kids. During this time he participated in a RimPac in which one of the subs in his squadron played a joke on the Australian ships and nearly caused an international incident with the Aussies. So yes, it’s been known to happen. One very minor detail that 99.9% of the people watching this movie won’t even notice but that made my heart skip a beat was seeing them use wax pencils and remembering watching my Dad use them. He always had one or two tucked neatly into his desk drawer and I would use them like crayons. I LOVED tugging the string. More years than I care to admit later and I’m still using USS Samuel Gompers nuclear work procedure notepads for scratch paper.
The only parts of the movie that are anything like the board game is the use of the NOAA buoys to track the alien ships and the torpedoes used by the aliens. The humans RADAR is knocked out by the aliens and, for some reason that isn’t explained, the aliens can’t seem to see them either so a screen that shows the movement of waves hitting the buoys acts as the pegboard. It was actually pretty cool. My biggest complaint is that it only lasted a few minutes before they moved on to the “they don’t like the sun” theory. The torpedoes used by the aliens look kind of like the pegs used in the game and stick in the hull for a few seconds before they explode. I got a kick out of that.
The least convincing of the Naval officers was the main protagonist Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch). His attitude and complete disregard for the rules would never be tolerated (and to the credit of the movie makers, almost wasn’t). I’m sorry, but there’s no way he’d make it through OCS and be an O-3 within 5 years and be so insubordinate. That being said, I kind of dig his weird robot surfer dude way of talking and he’s got great comedic timing.
Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård) is more believable as an officer but he still seems like an actor who’s pretending to play war games. His default expression is to stare wide-eyed, kind of like Amnesia Eric on True Blood. My favorite part? The part pictured above. It was the most emotion I ever saw from him. But I love Alex, he’s defintely worth nerdgasaming over and he fills out his dress whites very nicely.
The Admiral’s daughter, Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker) makes her entrance via a sexy slo-mo walk into the dive bar where Alex and Stone are hanging out celebrating Alex’s birthday. He immediately locks onto her position and attempts to sweet talk her but all she wants is a chicken burrito. His hilarious attempt to get her one wins her over and, I’m not gonna lie, it would probably impress me too. She’s a gorgeous girl but I have yet to see a fabulous acting job from Mrs. Roddick.
Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales is played by Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, an Army Veteran and double amputee. He was my favorite of the main characters. He had a couple of cheesy lines that didn’t seem so cheesy coming from him. He also gets into a badass, no holds barred fist fight with one of the aliens that had me cheering. I hope I get to see much more of him in future films.
Aside from implying that the Japanese have been spying on us all this time using our tsunami tracking systems, I thought Captain Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) was pretty cool. He likes to poke fun at the punk white kid which is all fun and games until he sucker kicks him in the face during a soccer match. That was not so cool. He makes up for it though by being a valuable member of the alien annihilation team and showing off the mad gun skillz he learned at summer camp when he was a kid.
The thing that pissed me off most before even seeing the movie was the fact that Rihanna was in it. I mean seriously. A pop star with a history of very bad decision making as a passable Naval Petty Officer? Please. But I was shocked (shocked I tell you!) to find that I actually didn’t mind her. She did alright and I even forgot that she was Rihanna at times.
Liam Neeson is always great. The man shows up, talks like a badass for a few minutes and goes home. What a life! At the end of the film soon-to-be LCDR Alex asks Admiral Shane if he can marry his daughter and the Admiral says no. He then beckons Alex to join him for lunch while they negotiate the terms of his surrender. I laughed out loud. That is absolutely positively something that my Dad would say.
The rest of the non-redshirt Navy personal is rounded by Ordy and The Beast (Jesse Plemons and John Tui). I thought Ordy was hilarious. He was kind of like Checkov in the Star Trek redux. A boy wonder who looks like he’s way too young to be there but just happens to have the knowledge needed to get us back in business. Beast is the wall everyone leans on. He’s calm and collected 99.9% of the time but isn’t afraid to yell in the face of his newly minted CO when he makes an absurd decision that will get everyone killed.
Adam Godley is the NASA scientist who creates and builds the communications array that draws the aliens to Earth. Once they get here he doesn’t know what the fuck to do so he relies on the crackpot scientist (Hamish Linklater) assigned to the satellites on Hawaii to figure it out. Cal almost chickens out but then grows a pair just in time to help out Sam and Mick.
The best part of the whole movie for me was when all the shiny new Destroyers are *ahem* destroyed and the few remaining sailors start eyeballing the “Mighty Mo,” a battleship that served from WWII to Operation Desert Storm. But wait! They don’t have enough people to operate the ship! But wait! Thar be old salts among us! The Veteran “Old Salts” are fantastic. I could totally picture my Dad and my Grandpa (the one playing Battleship up above) reacting in the exact same way. Plus, they have some of the greatest facial hair I’ve ever seen.
Random things I didn’t like:
The spinning fire balls of death killing all of the Marines. My brother is a Marine. It made me sad. I also didn’t understand why the spinning balls decided that a freeway overpass was a threat other than maybe they are sadistic and just wanted to watch cars plummet to the street below.
The slo-mo montage of pretty people. It was a bit too Michael Bay-ish.
The weakest point was the aliens. With their armor on they were kind of a HALO rip-off.
With their armor off they were vaguely reminiscent of the Tharks from John Carter of Mars (rather ironic since the film stars the guy who played John Carter) and Vincent from Beauty and the Beast.
They have weird porcupine quill beards and lizard eyes that are apparently their only weakness. They were dumb.
Random things I DID like:
Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater), the NASA scientist working at the satellite outpost in Hawaii. He was funny and quirky. I especially loved the scene when he’s skyping with another scientist and all the various agencies (NASA, Dept of Defense) turn up on the line.
LT Hopper hurriedly explaining to a young boy the difference between a Battleship and a Destroyer. It reminded me of when I’d go onboard my Dad’s ships and his coworkers would try to explain things to me. It went right over my head 99% of the time but it was so much fun.
The “I’m giving ‘em all she’s got” moment when the USS John Paul Jones fires every available weapon at an alien ship blinded by the sun. Great visual fx.
The joke about the North Koreans being responsible for the force field. Hahahaha. Yeah right. As if.
It was a totally cliché line but I like the way “Mahalo mutha fucka” sounds even though “mahalo” means “thank you” so the line made absolutely no sense in the context it was given.
The really weird back and forth, back and forth explosion caused by the alien torpedoes.
Mick the amputee: “we can buy the world another day!” Cal the scientist: “who talks like that?!?” This movie knew exactly what it was and wasn’t shy about making fun of itself.
The Museum-to-Battleship transformation that the USS Missouri goes through has a definite Battlestar Galactica feel to it. I even made a note of it. Then, once the Mighty Mo is in full fight mode against the aliens and the force field finally comes down, the Admiral sends in a fighter jet. What is the pilot’s callsign you ask? Boomer! I have no idea if that was intentional or not but I just about flipped the frak out.
Oh, and remind me to bring my Gompers notepad to write notes on next time.
3 out of 5 Sci-fives!