Big. Dumb. Loud. If that’s the impression you get of Battleship from the trailers, well, you’re not far off. It is all of those things, but in the midst of all that, it also manages to be kind of fun. It’s not as fun as it could have been, but it’s certainly not the disaster many may expect it to be. It’s a popcorn flick, one where you go, turn off your brain, and just enjoy the ride. Of course with today’s movie prices, it’s probably better to wait until this one hits the dollar theater.
While it may seem inconceivable to make a movie out of a board game, let me remind you that Disney was fairly successful with doing the same thing with a park ride. Of course, even that had more of a narrative structure than the classic Battleship board game. Still, someone found a way by blending the game with Transformers, Top Gun, and Independence Day. It’s a successful and fun mash-up for the most part, and the film does pay homage to its board-game inspiration. That part, however… I couldn’t decide if it was clever or cheesy. Stretching my suspension of disbelief to the absolute max, the scene in question wasn’t a bad way to do a shout-out to the game, but there are times where the execution, though taken very seriously, just feels almost a little too silly.
Actually, that’s one of the main problems with this movie; it takes itself too seriously. Even when it’s trying to be funny, it is trying very seriously to be funny (if that makes sense). It’s obvious Peter Berg was trying to go for a certain, snarky kind of tone with some of the banter, but too much of it feels forced and just generally tries too hard.
The other problem is it spends too much time out of the water. The movie is called Battleship, but a requisite of any movie today trying to appeal to a wide audience is to have some sort of “love interest,” and so here we have Brooklyn Deker to play the object of Taylor Kitsch’s affections. That’s all fine and good, but she doesn’t really have anything to do. None of the people on land do. They just look concerned and help provide some convenient ways to get the plot to its next key point, but most of the time I just wanted to get back to what this movie is titled for: a game of war between maritime forces (even if one of those happen to be aliens).
Then again, Liam Neeson has about the least to do out of anyone, and he’s probably laughing all the way to the bank over his free trip to Hawaii to growl out a few lines. Oh, Rhianna’s in it too, but that’s the thing: there are people in it and they all do fine for the most part, but these aren’t deep characters and therefore don’t demand much from the people portraying them. Again, the movie tries to take its characters seriously, but does so almost too much. The entire intro to the film could have been cut way shorter, especially considering most of the characters introduced during that time either aren’t around much or just kind of stand around the rest of the movie.
Truthfully, most of the writing for this movie is pretty bad (”They’ll never sink this battleship!”Ah, see what they did there? Clever right? Yeah, not so much.), but there was one cheesy line that I thought was rather profound. “We’re all going to die,” says one character to lighten a dire moment. Kitsch’s character responds in a quippy manner, “Yes we are. We’re all going to die. You’re going to die. I’m going to die. Everyone’s going to die… but not today.” Even though it was supposed to be one of those seriously funny and awesome action movie quips, I thought there was a lot of insight in that line because it’s true; we all are going to die. The mortality rate for the human race is 100%. Every single person born will die; no exceptions. Well, actually there was one exception. There was this guy Jesus who lived a little over two thousand years ago. He stirred up some trouble by claiming to be God, and that trouble eventually led to him getting killed.
Funny thing is, he didn’t stay dead. Three days later his tomb was found empty and hundreds of witnesses saw him alive. So what does that have to do with the rest of us who are all destined to die? Well, that guy Jesus provides the answer for “What are you going to do about the fact that you will die?” You see, Jesus’ resurrection broke the grip of death. We will still die, but like Jesus, we don’t have to stay dead if we don’t want to. It’s not reincarnation, waiting in purgatory, or a happy place everyone ends up like some sort of Nirvana; this is real life, the life we were intended to experience but had spoiled because of sin. When we choose to accept who Jesus was and that what he said is true, suddenly the fact that we’re all going to die isn’t quite as daunting a proposition.
As for Battleship, I honestly don’t think the movie has a enough steam (See what I did there? Yeah, about as bad as some of the quips in the film.) to take on The Avengers. This movie is big and loud, but almost desperately so. There were times where the movie was so loud I just wanted to encourage it to settle down; it was like a hyper-active child trying to get some attention: “Look at me, look at me, look at me.” I wanted to say, “I’m already here and I am looking at you, stop yelling at me.” Yet in spite of its flaws, I mostly had a good time. I’m a sucker for anything that makes the military look cool, and when the focus is on the ships, the movie’s pretty darned cool indeed. There’s a great and fun tribute to our vets, and lots of cool montages of cool military stuff to cool rock music. As you can see, this movie really wants to be very, very cool. And at times it is, and at times it’s even fun, but other times it just seems so desperate and needy. Like I said, it’s an overall enjoyable piece of summer fluff, but one probably best left to enjoying at the dollar theater. Oh, it also has a brief little Easter-egg scene at the end of the credits that reminded me a lot of the Godzilla remake. After you see it, let me know what you think and I’ll explain what I mean by that.