NASA fires some radio messages out into space. Some aliens attack Earth. We really don’t know what they want, but what the fuck does it matter? The writers didn’t care; the director didn’t care; the core audience for this movie won’t care. Why? Because…explosions. Explosions and Brooklyn Decker’s tits. Battleship represents everything that is wrong with Hollywood: It’s loud, it’s dumb, it’s obnoxious, and it’s expensive. It’s a Michael Bay movie without Michael Bay’s name in the credits.
The advertising campaign and the opening credit sequence for Battleship eagerly point out that this movie comes from Hasbro, the company that brought us Transformers. I find that angle a little baffling, because I don’t remember Hasbro ever being this prestigious film studio or publishing house; I remember Hasbro being a fucking toy company. Even more amazing, Universal evidently gave millions of dollars to Hasbro in exchange for permission to adapt the Battleship property to film; but the finished product has so little in common with the old Battleship board game that Universal could have released this movie exactly as it is without ever paying Hasbro a dime.
Taylor Kitsch plays a shiftless good-ole-boy all American fuck up until Brooklyn Decker’s gigantic breasts walk into his bar one night. He finds himself smitten. Thirty minutes later, he’s an officer in the U.S. Navy and battling invading aliens in order to win daddy Liam Neeson’s approval in perhaps the most valiant effort to get laid in the history of the world.
We are never shown what the ultimate goal of the aliens really are, but I guess it’s just easier on the part of the screenwriters to have a supporting character stupidly stare at the camera and, without any foundation, compare the situation to Columbus discovering America and the subsequent massacre of the natives. Why show when you can tell, right? And the aliens, of course, arrive in familiar CGI spaceships, all gun metal gray with sharp jagged edges.
The casting of this movie is all over the place. Taylor Kitsch acquits himself nicely in the lead role. He isn’t given much to do beyond strike poses in front of the camera and look heroic, but he brings charisma and a quiet intensity to an otherwise conventional and boring part. If anyone ever begins casting him in good movies, I suspect he’ll become a big star. Liam Neeson slums for a big fat paycheck, but even when he’s on autopilot he’s better than most actors. The rest of the cast, with one major exception, turn in performances ranging from serviceable to bland.
The casting of Rihanna, however, is not only an insult to all of the legitimately talented and struggling African American actresses in Hollywood who would sell their souls for a speaking role in a non-Tyler Perry movie but an insult to every woman in the U.S. Navy as well. Hundreds of known and unknown actresses in Hollywood could ably fill the role of a tough-as-nails sailor. Chris Brown’s human punching bag isn’t one of them. If all that’s standing between the survival of the human race and extinction at the hands of a hostile alien species is Rihanna, just give me a loaded pistol so I can off myself ahead of time.
Casting her would have been a monumental mistake even if she turned out to be a terrific actress, but she’s not a terrific actress. She performs about as well as you would expect from a talentless pop singer, which is to say she’s fucking terrible. And she gets at least twice as much screen time as Liam Neeson. The decision to hire Rhianna is simply brutally cynical stunt casting designed to attract teenage girls and tone deaf idiots, but that’s not even the most cynical aspect of Battleship.
Beyond the stupid plot, the excessive CGI, the incessant explosions, and Rhianna’s terrible acting, the most cynical aspect of the movie is its casual Michael Bay-esque fascism. Taylor Kitsch’s character is a worthless layabout until the Navy intervenes and transforms him into a handsome, heroic man of action; and despite the fact that these malicious aliens have mastered intergalactic travel, a handful of crusty old decommissioned battleships manned by red blooded Americans are more than enough to wipe out the vanguard of the invasion.
Now I have no problem with movies that boast a pro-military message. I gave Act of Valor a positive review earlier this year. But there was a sense of sincerity to that film. Commissioned by the Navy and starring active duty Navy Seals, I’m almost positive that the filmmakers there were earnest in their desire to paint the Seals in a positive light. I can’t say the same for Peter Berg’s Battleship.
Do you really think the director of Hancock and The Rundown gives two shits about the American military? Me neither. All of the flag waving and teary eyed patriotism that finds its way into every other frame of this movie is nothing more than a cold attempt to pander to Budweiser swilling, star spangled butt rock loving imbeciles. And while those dimwits might love the hell out of this movie, the Navy and Army veterans that appear here deserve better. Discerning cinema goers deserve better, too. If you have to see a movie this weekend, do what everyone else is doing and see The Avengers for the fourth or fifth time instead.