The movie “Battleship” has taken quite a bit of flak in the months leading up to its release based on the fact it’s a film inspired by a board game. There’s been jokes about what phrases from the game might end up as dialogue in the film (such as, “You sunk my battleship!”) and about what other board game-to-film projects we’ll be seeing in the future (coming next summer to a theater near you, a film about a family of explorers who find themselves trapped in a deadly jungle and facing down the most frightening terror they’ve ever experienced: a pack of hungry, hungry hippos …).
So, despite some of the initial skepticism from filmgoers and critics, is the final movie based on Hasbro’s classic naval combat game a “hit” or a “miss”? It has the same kind of feel as Michael Bay’s “Transformers” films, except with a naval twist — and whether that’s a good thing or not depends a lot on how you feel about the “Transformers” movies.
The film follows Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who is pressured by his older brother Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård) to join the Navy and do something constructive with his life. Alex has a difficult time staying out of trouble, and after getting into a fight on the day of an international naval exercise off the coast of Hawaii, he is informed by Admiral Shane (whose daughter he is dating) he likely will find himself kicked out of the Navy when they return from the exercise.
Fate intervenes, and an alien invasion forces Alex to take command of a U.S. Navy destroyer. Alex and his team must figure out how to destroy the alien forces and prevent them from sending a message back to their home planet. Alex’s ship is trapped inside a force field created by the aliens, preventing him from receiving any backup from other naval vessels outside the field.
The film has received a mixed reaction from audiences and critics. Rotten Tomatoes reviewer David Nusair calls it “epically bad in virtually every way imaginable,” while Scott Nash says, “I never thought I’d be saying this about this movie, but I enjoyed it. … It was … kind of fun in a big, loud, brainless summer blockbuster kind of way. It’s certainly better than the ‘Transformers’ movies.”
I must confess (don’t judge me!) that I did enjoy the film. I liked watching the battles at sea, and I thought the Navy ships were utilized well in the film. I also liked that film makers included a character who was a disabled military veteran. Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales (played by real-life veteran and amputee Gregory D. Gadson) lost both his legs and is having a hard time coping with his injury, both physically and emotionally. However, he regains his will to fight, and he gets to play a key role in stopping the alien invasion. I thought it was a nice way to recognize the service of soldiers and the struggle they have after returning from combat. Sometimes society doesn’t always pay as much attention to veterans, especially disabled veterans, as it should.
The film did have some weaknesses, though. At times, the references to the original game are a bit too obvious, and I think (spoiler alert!) Alexander Skarsgård’s character was killed off too soon. I also wish Liam Neeson would have been given more screen time as Admiral Shane (end spoiler!).
“Battleship” may not be a deep or thought-provoking film, but like “Transformers,” it’s a CGI roller coaster ride. Granted, it’s not a rousing epic like some of the best recent summer blockbusters (J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot, last summer’s “X-Men: First Class”); however, it’s still fun, and I found it to be an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.