Ladies and gentlemen, the reductio ad absurdum of summer blockbusters—and not just because it’s based on a fucking board game.
Boasting not a single original shot in its entire 131-minute running time, Battleship is cobbled together from a junkyard of used and abused product. I don’t feel comfortable even calling it a movie. Comprised of spare parts from Independence Day, Top Gun and Armageddon, one occasionally must pause and wonder why they didn’t try ripping off a good movie for a change.
Director Peter Berg, a gifted filmmaker responsible for both Friday Night Lights large and small screen incarnations, as well as nifty little B-pictures like The Runodown and The Kingdom, obviously set out to make the dumbest, most generic movie possible. Battleship is so far beyond pandering, it’s impossible not to feel like you’re in the presence of smart people who think you are seriously stupid.
Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights’ boozy hometown has-been Tim Riggins) is almost as awful here as he was in John Carter. An inherently comedic supporting player, Kitsch doesn’t fit right as a leading man, adopting the standard-definition Tom Cruise role (they might as well have nicknamed him Maverick) as a rebel who doesn’t play by the rules. He’s about to be tossed out of the Navy by his girlfriend’s grouchy Admiral dad (Liam Neeson, who apparently was on the set for 15 minutes and would like to cash his check immediately, please) when a pesky alien invasion makes him rise to the occasion.
I won’t begin to ask how spaceships capable of soaring across galaxies must somehow suddenly stay in the water and stick to naval battles, instead of just flying away. I also won’t ask why Rihanna never says more than four words in a row, with the camera anxiously darting around her line readings. Set at a Hawaiian naval base, Battleship has an entire running subplot devoted to mending American and Japanese race relations in the wake of Pearl Harbor, which I didn’t realize still presented such a pressing social problem 60 years later.
I do wonder, though, where the most jingoistic, flag-waving military recruitment film this side of a Michael Bay propaganda picture gets enough balls to end with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son?” Was nobody paying attention to the lyrics?