D-four? It’s a hit! “Battleship”

April 13, 2012

Like many people my age, I spent countless hours of my childhood playing the board game Battleship. Even now, I have the game on iPhone and have sunk–to date—over 1500 enemy ships. Yeah, I’m just that awesome. Strange thing though, never once in my decades of playing the game have I ever thought, hey, this is a fun game, but you know what would make it better? Aliens. Yeah. And Rihanna. Then it would be super awesome. No, I never thought that. Because I am not a visionary. As it turns out, evidenced by the movie Battleship, this combination actually does make the board game that much better. I know: it’s a movie based on a board game. It should be horrible. But in reality, it’s so much mindless fun, it’s almost a perfect summer movie.

Okay, so the first half hour or so is some labored setup that makes you want to scream at the screen, “Fucking aliens, invade already!” I often shout the same thing after reading a few pages of Entertainment Weekly. Sometimes I substitute “Chinese” for “Aliens.” What we got is this: Taylor Kitsch plays the screw-up brother of Alexander Skarsgard, a Navy officer. Somehow, he ends up joining the Navy and  becoming an officer. And he’s dating Brooklyn Decker, the daughter of Liam Neeson, who happens to be the, um, CEO of the Navy. And why not? He punched a wolf in the face in The Grey. Fuck, I’d let him run the Navy, wouldn’t you?

Boring stuff happens, so just ignore it. Check your email or whatever. Bottom line is, the Navy engages in a war game with the Japanese in the Pacific near Hawaii, when Aliens attack. The aliens were kind of invited here, because in 2005, we discovered an Earth-type planet and sunk millions into a communications device to reach them. Right. Like in 2005 we’d blow that kind of money to talk to another planet if they didn’t have oil or Republican party donors.

Pretty soon, Taylor ends up in command of a handful of destroyers, and is the only thing standing between a bunch of alien war machines and Hawaii. Meanwhile, Brooklyn is atop the same mountain as the communications array, which the aliens need to get to to call for reinforcements. She’s a physical therapist, and happened to be cajoling a double-amputee into being self-sufficient. It’s a stupid setup, just ignore it. Anyway, while Taylor and his intrepid crew, which includes a cute Rihanna, squares off against the war machines, he also learns he needs to take out that array.

Damndest thing, but while our massively-expensive Navy is fundamentally useless against the enemies we’ve been facing for the past ten years, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch it fighting aliens. It almost makes the six decades of insane defense spending we’ve engaged in to the detriment of, you know, education, infrastructure, manufacturing and business worth it all.

Basically, Battleship is a movie that wants you to have a good time at the movies. It has a sly sense of humor, great action set-pieces and the plot mechanics are so paint-by-number, it’s like diving into a massive platter of nachos. You know it’s bad for you, but just try and resist it. By the time Taylor and company commandeer the USS Missouri and transform it from a museum into a ship-of-the-line with the help of some elderly Missouri veterans (to the strains of “Thunderstruck”) it’s pretty clear that this movie has left seriousness behind in the drive to give you a good time, no matter what. Seriously. I’m pretty sure this movie would give you a hand-job if it felt like you weren’t having enough fun.

Some observations, though:

* The war games in this movie are called “Rimpac.” Is it just me, or does that sound dirty?

*  For a movie that fetishizes the Navy, it doesn’t bother to tell us much about the ship classes or what they’re capable of. Taylor has a brief scene in which he likens a battleship to a dinosaur and a destroyer to the Terminator. Does that make sense to anyone else?

* The alien machines are all complicated angles like Transformers. What happened to the good ol’ days of flying saucers and other easy-to-understand shapes?

* The aliens all look like background characters in Swamp People. They’re big, bald, and have weird goatees. Epic fail.

* Wait, they transformed the Missouri in three hours? I’m not quite buying this…

* Brooklyn Decker has to be the blandest love-interest in the Universe. I mean, why is Taylor so hung up on her when Rihanna is right there?

* Speaking of, I appreciated how the veterans’ first reaction to her was too show her the differences between a destroyer’s weapons systems and those of a battleship. Instead of, you know, saying something like, “Wow. We didn’t have such comely negresses in the Navy in my time…” which you just know they were thinking.

So, that is Battleship. It is amazingly stupid fun. Hey, what did  you expect from a movie based on a board game? Think Candyland will be as much fun? Me neither.


  1. Does anyone at any point in the movie, for whatever reason, say “You sank my battleship?”

  2. No, they do not. They do, however, have a nifty homage to the board game in one sequence when they are targeting the enemy ships.

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