Updated: Nov 4, 2021
There are a lot of movies that are based off of video games. Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Combat, Castlevania, and Tomb Raider to name a few. Some of these movies are really good where others are worth never mentioning again.
What about movies based on board games? They exist and they range from terrible like Dungeons & Dragons and Ouija to pretty good like Clue. Today we explore another movie based on a board game to see where it falls in the pantheon, or outhouse, of film: Battleship.
Directed by: Peter Berg
Written by: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Liam Neeson
Watch on: HBO Max
Review Alpha 9.3.21.0003
In yesterday's review, I mentioned how I am drawn to military-themed science fiction movies. In most cases, I like them for what they are. The acting may be bad, the graphics may be bad, the story itself may even be bad, but overall it takes a lot for me to not like the movie.
I wish I could say the same for Battleship, but as much as I tried to like the movie overall, I just cannot get there. That isn't to say the entire film is terrible. I actually enjoy some parts of the movie, and there are concepts that I find rather interesting, but as a whole, this movie doesn't work for me.
The movie begins much like others in this category: In 2006, scientists discover a planet with similar characteristics as Earth. In their infinite wisdom, they develop a satellite communication network to send amplified deep space broadcasts to the planet to see if intelligent life on at least our level exists. Naturally, there is the lone skeptic, the future "I told you so" type that muses on Columbus' discovery, but the mission is a go, and the signal is sent. This actually is a good start to the movie. However, the movie falls off a major cliff at this point.
We are greeted to Oahu, Hawaii, with the sounds of Stone Temple Pilots "Interstate Love Song." We enter a dive bar and meet a drunken, 90's grunge throwback Alex Hopper who is celebrating his birthday with his older brother Stone Hopper, an officer in the United States Navy. Several beers and shots into the evening, the brothers are waxing philosophical about Alex's lack of purpose and ambition in life when Sam Shane, daughter of Admiral Terrence Shane, enters the bar searching for a beer and a chicken burrito. This insatiable desire for said chicken burrito starts a series of unbelievable events. Drunken Alex breaks into the neighboring convivence store, nukes a chicken burrito, somehow delivers it to Sam while being tased repeatedly. The next morning he wakes up to his yelling brother telling him it's time to grow up and that he will be joining the Navy...and ends up not only with the girl but also becomes a commissioned officer himself in the U.S. Navy. While science fiction does require varying levels of the suspension of belief, this is asking too much. If Alex had already been in the Navy or was later enlisted, I'd be more apt to buy this. But a mid-Twenties slacker earning with a sketchy background becoming a T.A.C. officer aboard a destroyer set the movie off in the wrong direction from which it never recovered.
Fast forward, the U.S. Navy is conducting a joint forces exercise called RIMPAC with other nations, including Japan. We are treated to a soccer match that leads to a bathroom fight between a Japanese naval officer, Captain Yugi Nagata, and now Lt. Alex Stone, leading to disciplinary action that turns out he will lose his commission after the joint exercise. But wait, there's more!
We are treated to a range of characters, ranging from interesting to what the Hell! On the interesting side, we have U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and double amputee Mick Canales and Chief Petty Officer Walter 'The Beast' Lynch. On the What the Hell side, we have the likes of Boatswain Mate Seaman Jimmy 'Ordy' Ord and Petty Officer Cora 'Weps' Raikes. Collectively, it's quite the motley crew.
Now, back to the story. It's now 2012, and the signal has been answered by an advance team of alien invaders. In a fortunate event, one of the invading craft strikes a satellite and is fatally damaged. It veers off course and starts breaking up in the atmosphere. However, a large section of the craft crashes in Hong Kong. The remaining craft land in the Pacific near Hawaii, where they set up a defensive dome made of some unknown energy source. Nothing can enter or exit the dome, including communications. The entire joint fleet is outside the dome, all except three destroyers.
Once the confusion settles down, the three vessels sail to investigate an unknown object in the middle of the ocean. This object turns out to be the F.O.B. (forward operating base) of the alien invaders. After Lt. Stone and crew examine it up close, all Hell breaks loose. The alien invaders launch their own craft, and a brief firefight ensues. I say brief because the alien invaders, as one expects, whips ass. In the fight, Commander Hopper's ship is destroyed, and he is killed. Captain Nagata's ship is also heavily damaged and is sinking. Lt. Stone, now elevated to the ship's captain, orders a full-speed assault on the enemy ship. Detecting the approaching John Paul Jones as a threat, the ship prepares to fire and destroy the third ship. However, Lt. Stone is convinced to call off the assault when his crew repeatedly calls out sailors in the water. Lt. Stone breaks off the attack and turns to a rescue and recovery mission.
After the battle, the invaders send out an expeditionary force to take over the satellite network in Hawaii. It turns out the crashed craft in Hong Kong was their communications ship. To send a signal for the rest of the invading force, they need to use the communications system that drew their attention to Earth in the first place. They quickly overrun the site and get to work.
While that is happening, the invaders launch an assault on the Hawaiian islands themselves, first targeting the military installations and then the infrastructure using a sort of weapon that can best be described as a balled chain. These devices proceed to rip apart everything, thus neutralizing any military resistance and preventing any counter-attack.
However, humans fight back!. Using tsunami buoys, Captain Nagata, now in command of the John Paul Jones, creates a grid system and uses water displacement to track the enemy fleet. The enemy ships do not propel themselves through the water like ships we know. Instead, they "hop" through the water. John Paul Jones instigates a fight and manages to destroy one of the invading ships. However, a second ship approaches, but it begins moving like Frogger on the freeway rather than using predictable advancement. Captain Nagata orders a tactical retreat to a bend where the next battle happens. The second alien ship is destroyed, but the John Paul Jones is also sunk. With no ship, there is no hope to stop the inevitable.
Meanwhile, Sam and Lt. Col. Canales become a covert team and temporarily disrupt the invaders from sending their signal. However, they know they have only bought some time and now cannot prevent a second signal.
Just when it seems that Earth is doomed, the survivors of the John Paul Jones make it back to Peal Harbor and use the only available ship, the U.S.S. Missouri. Aided by the old former crew members, the battleship sets sail and takes on the remaining enemy. In what is probably the best and funniest part of the movie, the old girl and her ragtag crew take out both the final Mothership and F.O.B. as well as destroying the communications satellite network. Hooray! Earth is saved, Lt. Hopper's career is saved, and he and Admiral Stone end the movie to discuss the terms of his surrender (marriage to Sam) over chicken burritos.
There is a lot in this movie effects-wise that I wasn't a fan of. The aliens didn't look great. They were humanoid with cat eyes, two opposable thumbs, and what looked like porcupine quills for goatees. They were clearly more muscular than humans, but they didn't look good.
The human actors weren't any better. All the humor moments fell flat for me, except when the old crew made fun of the current Seamen. There was no real compelling character to latch on to and root for.
The alien ships, while cool-looking, have to be the dumbest inventions ever. Their propulsion system, basically a floating frog, is inefficient and wasteful. Every time they landed, it took them a moment to settle before they could engage.
However, the weaponry was cool. I mentioned the balled chain weapons. Those things are fantastic, as were the invader ship's canister that they would fire. However, one would expect alien weapon technology to be significantly more incredible than human weapon technology, but that isn't the case here. The A.A.C. miniguns on the ships were awesome, but nothing was better than when Missouri fired those cannons.
Battleship is a movie that didn't really move the needle much for me, but I can see where it would be one of those "mind candy" types of movies that is bad enough to get a kick out of without making one want to throw the remote at the T.V. Therefore...
Warp 3 on the SciFi Drive.
Ancillary note: Playing the board game with a five-year old is far superior to this movie.
Next Review: Battlestar Galactica: The Mini-series (2003)
Please share your thoughts on Battleship.