Review of Battleship


Movie Review: "Battleship" --

Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Directed by: Peter Berg
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cast: Full Cast and Crew
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

"Battleship" is an action film based on the Hasbro board game of the same name. At first glance, this may be a problem for some people, but somehow, director Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights," "The Kingdom") has created an entertaining film that takes some of the details of the game and spins it into an entirely new direction. With Taylor Kitsch ("Friday Night Lights," "John Carter") and Liam Neeson ("The Grey," "Batman Begins") in key roles, "Battleship" features rousing action and a decent cast.

The film begins in 2005 with NASA sending out satellites in the hopes of establishing a connection with recently discovered life forms on another planet. At the same time, young Alex Hopper (Kitsch) tries to impress Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) but ends up getting arrested. Hopper's brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), shows up to make Alex join the United States Navy in the hopes that it can provide him with some direction.

Fast forward to 2012, Alex is now a lieutenant and a tactical action officer on board the USS John Paul Jones. He's been in a six-year relationship with Samantha and is ready to take the next step but is afraid to ask her father, Admiral Shane, for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, any future plans for Alex and Samantha are put on hold when an alien force lands in the Pacific Ocean near Alex's fleet.

Responding to the communication array sent out by NASA, four alien vessels have landed on Earth. One of them has crashed in Hong Kong, while the other three have engaged the naval fleet. Almost immediately, the alien vessels trap the fleet into a grid, with each ship blindly firing at one another. Soon, Alex and his crew must discover the reasons for the alien assault while trying to survive the barrage of attacks from the alien ships.

Director Peter Berg is at the top of his game with "Battleship." He has the filmmaking skills of Michael Bay without the skittishness and ADD-infused filmmaking that so often detracts from the movie experience. Throughout his career, Berg has established himself as one of the top action filmmakers in the game. With "Battleship," Berg takes those skills and turns what could have been a disaster into a rousing film that manages to infuse itself with the spirit of its namesake.

While the focus of a film like this is the action, the actors do a more than serviceable job of holding their own. Kitsch is fine as Alex, playing a similar type of character to his roles in "John Carter" and "Friday Night Lights." While he doesn't bring the emotion he had in "Lights" to the film, he does have the makings of a good leading man. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson, who was a heavy presence in many of the film's previews, is relegated to a cameo role. However, when he is on screen, his presence is felt, elevating the skills of those around him.

The most interesting aspect of the film is the way Berg handles the aliens. These creatures are not part of an invasion force; instead, they appear to be on an expedition. While they are the aggressors in the film, it is heavily implied that they are attacking because they are afraid of the naval fleet. The aliens are trying to avoid human casualties and make it a point to keep the hostilities relegated to within their force field. While there is the fear that these beings are eventually going to try to contact their planet for help, Berg's decision to put these creatures on Earth for a reconnaissance mission puts a new spin on the classic alien invasion story.

Berg made the conscious attempt to include military personnel on the film, both as actors and as consultants. There is an emphasis on standard naval protocol and technology, adding a sense of realism to the film. In contrast, much of the alien weaponry and defenses are made to resemble the pieces of the board game "Battleship." From the force field grid that encloses the Navy and the aliens' pegged missiles, Berg and his special effects technicians have managed to successfully integrate the board game with real-world ships. While it's not instantly noticeable, fans of the game will certainly be impressed with the way Berg has fused these elements.

Ultimately, "Battleship" is an entertaining film that is perfect for the summer. The action is top-notch, and the main characters are relatable enough to engage the audience. Peter Berg does a great job of balancing the action with the elements of the classic board game, making a film that manages to entertain without dumbing down its content. With its unique take on the alien force and superior special effects, Berg has added another exciting film to his increasingly impressive resume.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars