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With: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Liam Neeson, Peter MacNicol, John Tui, Jesse Plemons, Gregory D. Gadson, Jerry Ferrara, Adam Godley, Rico McClinton, Joji Yoshida
Written by: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Directed by: Peter Berg
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language
Running Time: 131
Date: 04/03/2012

Battleship (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

All Hands on Dreck

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At some point, in some Hollywood pitch meeting, someone said "alien invasion" and "based on a popular board game" at the same time, and the green light went on faster than an exploding robot.

Thus, Battleship was born.

Alien invasion movies usually work based on three things: strong characters, cool aliens, and a good idea. Battleship has boring characters, boring aliens, and a couple of minor ideas so stupid that they may elicit a temporary smile.

It begins with the hero, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), as a lovable, scruffy loser who accidentally wreaks havoc while trying to impress a girl (Brooklyn Decker). Later, he joins the Navy and becomes a lieutenant, and he's not so scruffy or lovable anymore.

The girl turns out to be the daughter of an admiral (Liam Neeson). After Alex fails to ask the admiral for permission to marry his daughter, the aliens attack.

They look pretty much like giant Transformers, with Power Rangers stocked inside. The alien ships and armor contain a sensor that shows whether something is violent or not: green means safe, and red means violent. (How does it know?) If it's red, they blow it up.

Meanwhile, we get scenes of the girlfriend, a scientist (Hamish Linklater), and a wounded army vet with prosthetic legs (Gregory D. Gadson, who, in a tip of the hat to The Best Years of Our Lives, is the real thing), trying to sabotage the aliens' communications.

We also get the obligatory scenes with the Secretary of Defense and a bunch of other guys sitting around a big table.

The first stupid idea is how the movie fits in the "Battleship" board game motif; immune to radar, the surviving sailors figure out a way to track them using water displacement, electronic buoys and a computer grid. The scene only lasts a few minutes, but it's fun.

Then, when all the destroyers are sunk, the crew is forced to bring out a 70 year-old battleship, complete with its crew, a team of aging Korean War veterans that knows how to run her (shades of Space Cowboys). These old guys get no real names or characters, but they do get to swear from time to time, which is supposed to be cute.

The rest is visual effects, explosions, and pop star Rihanna, who gets to be sassy in her acting debut.

Director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Hancock) doesn't so much direct as copy older ideas and throw money at them. If this is entertainment, we're sunk.
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