BATTLESHIP
Author: JoAnne Hyde
May 18, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: Inspired by Hasbro's classic naval combat game, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Lt. Alex Hopper, a Naval officer assigned to the USS John Paul Jones; Brooklyn Decker as Sam Shane, a physical therapist and Hopper's fiancée; Alexander Skarsgård as Hopper's older brother, Stone, Commanding Officer of the USS Sampson; Rihanna as Petty Officer Raikes, Hopper's crewmate and a weapons specialist on the USS John Paul Jones; and international superstar Liam Neeson as Hopper and Stone's superior (and Sam's father), Admiral Shane

It’s a little bit Independence Day, a little bit Transformers, and nothing at all like a board game. What Battleship is, though, is entertaining. Although the film has little in common with the popular Hasbro game other than the title, a battleship, the decommissioned USS Missouri, does play a central part. Otherwise, the film is quite a bit more high-tech than that. Director Peter Berg gives us a fast-paced, special effects laden, loud action film in a season when such films are rapidly becoming a common denominator in the multiplex. Probably best not to think about it too much – just enjoy it for what it is. The effects are better than average, and so are the extraterrestrials. At least they don’t growl!

Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, the goof-up brother of a Navy Commander, Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard). Fed up with his brother’s directionless life, Stone insists that he join the Navy. Alex becomes an officer and falls in love (after a very extreme “cute-meet”) with Sam (Brooklyn Decker), the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Of course, Alex’s impulsive personality insures that he will goof up in the Navy, too, only to be redeemed in the battle of a lifetime.

Unfortunately for the inhabitants of planet Earth, we’ve managed to contact an alien race on an Earth-like planet, deemed Planet G. This occurs in just a few years even though Planet G is supposed to be about 20 light-years distant. Never mind the laws of physics – remember, I told you not to think too much -- the ET’s there have managed to receive and track our signal and arrive just when the US and Japanese fleets are conducting training exercises off the coast of Hawaii. These guys do NOT come in peace, so Earthlings must battle for their existence with only inferior weapons plus a lot of heart. Okay, I never said that the script wasn’t full of clichés and corny lines. That being said, none of the actors are called on to give stellar performances. And, they don’t. They’re mostly adequate, and that’s fine since the real stars are the alien crafts and weapons, i.e. the special effects.

Rihanna, in her film debut as Petty Officer Cora Raikes, isn’t any worse than anyone else. She can fire guns at green screens with the best of them. Brooklyn Decker isn’t called on to do much more than to look beautiful in very short shorts and a tight tank top. I mean, this is basically a guy’s movie, but you’ve got to get some gals in it so they might as well be good-looking! Taylor Kitsch has the most screen time by far, and he puts some real energy into the thankless job of saving the world. You’ve got to give him some credit since he was made to suffer in that cheesy loin cloth in the bomb John Carter. Maybe he’ll get a little respect, now.

One bright spot in the film is the inclusion of a real war hero, Legrand Strickland. The Tulsa, OK, native lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan, and although he’s no actor, he makes his time fighting the invaders believable. Another bright spot shines when the decommissioned USS Missouri, now a floating museum, is commandeered to battle the alien invaders since it’s the last ship left intact. The older actors who portray the WWII vets in charge of the museum provide some fun moments when they get into harm’s way once again. I couldn’t help but think how much my late father, who served in the Navy in WWII, would have enjoyed that part of the film. In fact, I think that the few WWII vets left and anyone who is a fan of the US Navy will love the film -- as will boys of all ages. Heck, I’m a girl and I liked it just fine! Despite defying logic with some hefty plot holes, Battleship still provides a good time. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B+


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