By MICHAEL WALTERS
There’s something to be said for dumb escapist fun without enough sense in its head to tell you 2 + 2 = 4. Stunts and special effects don’t necessarily need intelligence to entertain.
But “Battleship” is a big dumb summer popcorn movie that gives big dumb summer popcorn movies a bad name. This $200 million sinking ship is torpedoed right from the start by a premise that wouldn’t hold water under the most generous of circumstances. Clearly, adding aliens to the mix wasn’t the answer to the question of how to make a viable blockbuster out of “Battleship.” The better question is why try to make the movie at all?
The plot goes like this: NASA has discovered a distant plant similar to our own and attempts to make contact with a deep space satellite. But all hell breaks loose when five alien ships actually answer the call and crash into the Pacific Ocean, and Hong Kong during a series of Naval training exercises. The aliens are planning a full scale invasion and it’s up to a naval fleet to stop them.
But at risk of damning with faint praise, I have to admit the Hawaiian locales, and shots at sea do look pretty. The gunmetal gray of the giant gunboats glistening in ocean has an allure. And director Peter Berg handles the action sequences competently, if not terribly compellingly.
Taylor Kitsch is the headstrong young recruit dating the admiral’s daughter who can’t seem to keep himself in line, and whose leadership is tested by the alien insurgence. If this movie bombs — Kitsch could become the blockbuster’s kiss of death — but he’s not as bad as his movie’s box office suggests. While on the surface he appears to be just one “whoa” short of channeling Keanu Reeves, there’s more going on behind the scenes of the simplistic looking performances.
The same cannot be said for former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker.
As for Rihanna, as an actress she’s a heck of a singer. She’s given little to do other than to occasionally fire a rifle or spout something about some voodoo curse her grandma told her about the end of the world.
Liam Neeson projects quiet authority as the admiral of the fleet, but is largely trapped away from the action.
The movie doesn’t even have the good sense to embrace the cheesy nature inherent in a movie based on a board game. While the film does contain an extended sequence essentially showing the captains of battleship actually playing “Battleship,” no one actually utters the line you’d expect them to. Would Snakes on A Plane have been as entertaining without Samuel L. Jackson’s F-bombs of fury?
Battleship shoots nothing but blanks. A Big Miss indeed.