Like an invisible pugilist, inspiration can hit you when you least expect it. Pirates of the Caribbean was based on an amusement park ride, Space Invaders motivated Shigeru Miyamoto to eventually create games like The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong, and Salvador Dali presumably drew inspiration from a kitchen accident in which, instead of a cake, he put a clock in his oven. But when I saw that Battleship was based on the board game of the same name, I did a double-take, followed by a triple-take and a partial quadruple-take. It wasn’t the first movie to be based on a board game, as both a play and film based on the game Clue came out years ago. What shocked me was the notion that in 2011, someone would sink $220 million into a film based on a game that dated back to World War I, and was first published as a plastic board game in 1967.
More shocking than the film’s source of inspiration and immense budget is that, contrary to my expectations, it’s not irredeemably terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Battleship should be winning awards, but folks who are capable of tolerating the weak writing and paper-thin plot will find some enjoyment in the movie’s excellent special effects, ridiculous action, and occasional moments of campy self-awareness.
In Battleship, aliens have come to Earth, and it’s all thanks to those lovable goofballs over at NASA. Back in 2005, NASA found a “goldilocks planet” far from Earth, a world that was the perfect distance from the nearest star for life to flourish. In 2006, they attempted communications with this mysterious world, dubbed “Planet G.” Jump forward to 2012, where rebellious hotshot Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is on board the USS John Paul Jones during a Navy exercise in Hawaii. During the exercise, aliens from Planet G show up, and start duking it out with the various battleships participating in the exercise.
The plot gets a bit more involved throughout the film, but not much. It’s all a justification for the crazy action and special effects, and in that regard, Battleship is a slam dunk, touchdown, and homerun all at once. The aliens’ vehicles and protective suits spit sparks and smoke, with hundreds of intricately detailed pieces moving individually. The sound effects are equally excellent, with a number of punchy explosions and loud, whirring engines on the alien ships.
There’s also an appreciable level of self-awareness in Battleship. It’s a stupid movie, but you can tell that the writers and directors are all in on the joke. The film opens with a drunken Alex Hooper trying to impress a girl named Sam (Brooklyn Decker) by breaking into a nearby market and stealing a chicken burrito for her. Alex’s clumsy efforts are a work of slapstick genius, and it’s all accompanied by the theme from The Pink Panther, which only adds to the hilarity.
Sadly, good moments can’t compensate for the movie’s fundamental weaknesses. The plot is thinner than a sheet of paper on a strict diet, and the acting is often a little too wooden. The script isn’t too involved, which takes a bit of the sting out of the unremarkable acting, but it can’t completely eradicate the issue. On top of that, the soundtrack, while not bad, is wholly unmemorable. It’s all typical, big-budget Hollywood fare, with simple melodic passages dominated by brass and string instruments.
So is this movie worth checking out? Well, that depends. If you want a brainy movie, then stay away. No one is going to have a deep, soul-searching discussion about Battleship. This is a movie for people who like insanely high-budget explosions and destruction. There’s no artistic value here, but that’s not what Battleship is about. Give it a watch if you have friends over and want some entertainment while you throw back a beer or five. It won’t blow your mind, but if you’re in the mood for some stupid entertainment, Battleship can be a fun way to eat up a couple of hours.
Images from cialisline.com and battleship.wikia.com, video from Universal Pictures UK