Tadanobu Asano (left) and Taylor Kitsch hope Battleship doesn’t sink at the box office.
BATTLESHIP (D: Peter Berg, 131 min). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Give Peter Berg credit for at least one thing: the characters in Battleship actually do play a version of the hit-and-miss strategy game about 90 minutes into his massive summer sci-fi actioner.
It's even handled with some tension, as the crew of a decommissioned destroyer uses flood buoys to calculate the movements of massive alien war machines off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands. And, of course, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
The fate of the world is always hanging in the balance in this sort of movie, of course. Michael Bay laid out the road map with his Transformers trilogy, and now Berg puts his own stamp on it, sort of. Battleship is basically Transformers without the good robots or the civilian characters, and with even less dialogue.
The script is as generic as they come, the alien invasion serving as a catalyst for our hero, maverick Navy lieutenant Alex Hooper (Taylor Kitsch), to get his shit together and become a leader, just like the young James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams's Star Trek.
Oh, and he has a personal mission, too. His girlfriend, Sam (Brooklyn Decker) is the daughter of Hooper's neme sis, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), and the otherwise progressive Sam wants Alex to ask him for her hand in marriage, likely because some part of Battleship wishes it were set in 1942 rather than 2012.
Battleship does some things well. The CG is state-of-the-art, as you'd expect in a production of this scale, and the action for the most part is visually interesting and easy to understand. (This is a good thing, since Berg's set pieces in The Kingdom and Hancock have a tendency to slip into incoherence.)
And the film should be commended for casting actual military veteran Gre gory D. Gadson in the role of a surly double amputee who - along with Sam - becomes an essential part of the game plan, although his character is ultimately just one more war movie cliché in a movie that's filled to bursting with them.
Of course, if you're just looking for war movie clichés (and a few aliens), Battleship will give you everything you want. It might also leave you with minor hearing damage; it's one of the loudest , most aurally assaultive films I've ever seen. Some audience members will see that as a positive.