When bloggers first got word of a film based on the popular game “Battleship”, an eruption of laughter seated deeply within the orifices of the blogosphere was cast out into the sky. There were storms and hurricanes and tsunamis; people around the world were affected by the tragedy. I’ll admit that I participated in the royal beheading regarding the mere idea of this film. Coupled with the awful first trailer and I was set to avoid this film at all costs.
Just the idea of a film based on a simplistic board game is enough to make any critic gag with disgust. But, you know, time goes on, the laughter dies down, and things change. So when I finally got around to seeing Battleship, I was fresh off the disappointment of The Avengers, so pretty much anything this film had to offer couldn’t be more of a let down than that. Within Battleship‘s first ten minutes, I was engaged, I was cracking up, and I was ready to go along for the ride, promptly leaving my brain at the door.
Battleship follows Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a slacker who lives on the couch of his brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) of the US Navy. After a tazer filled run in with the law, Stone leads his brother down a new direction. Fast forward seven years, Alex is now referred to as Lieutenant Alex Hopper of the United States Navy. In a serious relationship with his beautiful girlfriend, Sam (Brooklyn Decker), Alex plans to ask her father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), for her hand in marriage. But Hopper will find out that surviving Sam’s father will be the least of his problems.
During an annual Naval war game, five extra terrestrial air crafts crash into the ocean, startling the fleet of ships currently occupying those waters. Hopper goes to identify the ships, bringing along trigger-happy Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes (Rihanna) and Chief Petty Officer Walter “The Beast” Lynch (John Tui). Hopper touches the ship which turns it back on, causing it to lift itself out of the water and into the air. Further startled by this, the sailors back on the destroyer ships proceed to attack the unidentifiable spaceship that seems to be posing a threat. What ensues is a battle for the safety of Earth that will forever change the world.
Back on land, Sam, who works as a physical therapist for injured veterans, is taking a hike with her newest patient, a legless officer who is still adjusting to his condition. Up there, they run into Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater), a scientist who worked with NASA to send out signals to an extrasolar planet with conditions similar to the Earth. Back when the signal was first sent out in 2005, Zapata claimed that the arrival of another life-form would be akin to Christopher Columbus and the Indians, only we would be the Indians.
The only way to ensure that alien reinforcements don’t make it to Earth is to destroy the satellite where the first signal was sent out. They have until 8:43 AM the following morning to do so, and if they fail, there could be upward of 500,000 UFOs invading Earth and all of its inhabitants.
From its first minute, Battleship differentiates itself from other similarly plotted films with its engaging characters, rather ingenious script, and breathtaking direction by cult filmmaker Peter Berg. Most people know Berg for his “blockbusters with brains” approach to big-budget filmmaking, and let me assure in saying that Battleship is no exception. Despite the shit-blows-up approach to the preview, the film has a lot more to say than one would originally think.
Berg’s decidedly anti-war film is actually a twist on an overly patriotic genre that shoves the importance of the military down the throat of its viewers. Instead, Berg forces the viewers to question the actions of the “invaders” of Earth. When analyzed from another perspective, one could make the argument that they were actually the good guys. The first major point to be made is that we, the humans, invited them, the aliens. We got a response, and what do we do? Attack.
Secondly, why do you think the aliens landed in the ocean in the first place? They could have just as easily landed on actual Earth and saved themselves a trip to land. I theorize that it’s because they didn’t want to harm any of the humans living on Earth. The simplistic weaponry used by the aliens is, in fact, not weaponry at all; it’s mining equipment. Yeah, I said it, mining equipment. It’s explained in the film that there’s only one periodic element that they can recognize which was in their fuel. So why mining equipment?
Well, for starters, they probably only had enough fuel to get themselves to Earth, but not back home. I don’t know if you know, but intergalactic space travel probably eats up a lot of gasoline. The mining equipment was so the aliens could mine out the element used in their gasoline so that they could get home. Am I making sense yet? Also, not to spoil anything, but during the battle scenes, the aliens have quite the moral complex, only attacking anything or anyone that poses an immediate threat to their safety. Misinterpreted as an attack, it was actually the humans that took the first shot.
At face value, Battleship is a mindless action movie that does nothing but aesthetically please anything that comes its way. But viewers who are willing to put in the effort will find a Peter Berg-ified blockbuster that has something to say. Furthermore, in the “cool stuff taht goes boom” department, the film delivers. I can guarantee you that Battleship is the only film that has an 80-year-old man that says, “Let’s drop some lead on these motherf***ers!”. But with that, the film never loses its sense of humanity. For that, Battleship is enjoyable on almost every level. From the gorgeous visuals to the engaging subtext, Battleship is the year’s first, and hopefully not last, intellectual action film.