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Published on May 18th, 2012 | by simeon

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Battleship

Basing a movie off of a videogame is often a risky proposition. For every “Resident Evil”, there at least a dozen others that are out and out disasters, “Mario Brothers”, “Wing Commander”, and “Double Dragon” are a few examples of how not to do it.

While Hollywood shows no signs of stopping videogame adaptations anytime soon, game development companies are becoming more savvy with allowing their products to become movies and are requiring uality scripts, cast, and directors before they enter into any film deal. Undaunted, Hollywood turned its eyes on children’s toys for inspiration. With the successful Transformers series, Hasbro has been targeted for their very popular line of board games as source material for future movies.

First out of the box is “Battleship”, director Peter Berg’s big-budget adaptation of the timeless naval strategy game that has been enjoyed for decades by players young and old. Since this is the era of video games, the simplistic style of the board game needed to be tweaked in order to make it appealing for the summer movie masses.

Gone is the classic strategy of the game and in its place, a loud and brash cast of 20-somethings, over-the-top special effects, and a plot riddled with more holes than the classic grids in the game that spawned the film.

Taylor Kitsch follows up his role in John Carter by playing Alex Hopper, a ne’er-do-well who despite the mentoring of his successful naval officer brother (Alexander Skarsgard), never seems to run out of ways to get himself in trouble. His latest efforts to impress a girl he met in a bar, land him in hot water with the authorities and his brother lays down the law and insists that Alex join the Navy and make something of his life.

The film jumps into the future where Alex is now dating the very attractive girl from the bar, Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), and trying to get enough courage together to ask her father for permission to marry his daughter. The fact that her father is Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), only complicates the matter.

Despite holding the rank of an officer, Alex is still extremely headstrong and prone to getting himself in trouble. What what was supposed to be a friendly soccer match during allied naval exercises escalates, and Alex finds himself facing an ignominious exit from the Navy. He’s given a temporary reprieve as the ships in his fleet are suddenly faced with the threat of extraterrestrial origins.

Approximately around the same time Alex entered the Navy, scientists developed a way to amplify radio signals and directed them toward planets they believed could possibly support life. The signals were answered in the form of a hostile force that arrives on Earth only to cut a swath of destruction across the world as well as the naval fleet it encounters. Cut off from the rest of the fleet and reinforcements by an energy field, Alex is forced into command and must confront the deadly enemy at all cost to save the world.

What follows is a series of elaborate special effects that, while visually appealing, fail to pack much punch as the plot and characters are so underwhelming.

I understand that for films this type, especially given the source material, one must give a certain amount of leeway and accept, even grudgingly, the inconsistencies and impracticalities. That being said, not only are the characters about as thin and one-dimensional as they possibly could be, they are for the most part utterly devoid of any interesting qualities nor are they given much in the way of back story that makes us care for their outcomes. R&B star Rihanna spends a good chunk of her time looking tough and menacing, but isn’t given much more to do than occasionally fire a gun.

Kitsch is so utterly bland and unsympathetic that there’s just really no redeeming value to his character. Battleship is supposed to be a story of redemption but instead it’s a story of inconsistencies. Many times throughout the film common sense much less standard military procedures seems to go out the window.

For example, standard rules of engagement tactics were not used early in the film, but yet were readily deployed during the so-called big finale to the film with success. One has to wonder how more seasoned officers with far more resources at their disposal failed to utilize such tactics or have success with the methods that they employed. Yet ironically, this young lieutenant on his first command is able to out-maneuver these aliens when he decides to take to the offensive and lull the enemy into a fairly passive mode where they don’t do much more than watch.

The aliens, while interesting, are given precious little to do other than occasionally destroy or blow something up. We have no idea why they are on earth and to be honest, why they arrived in such small force. If the idea was to conquer Earth, it was poorly planned. Yet if proper procedures were followed, their incursion could have been dealt with very early and easily with the resources at hand. But that would’ve made for a short movie.

What I found puzzling was how surprisingly light on action the movie was. Yes there were firefights but they were spread sparingly throughout the film. You do not have one grand epic battle against overwhelming odds, you do not have legions of enemy troops for the Navy to wade through. It was pretty much a here-it-is-take-it-or-leave it, ho-hum finale.

The film does have some good points with Hawaii as its main backdrop. I did like the fact that there were a lot of active and retired soldiers and sailors used in the filming of the picture. It is clear that the filmmakers wanted to honor the soldiers who have so gallantly served our nation. I just wish they could’ve given them a much better showcase, because truthfully you’ll find far more thrills and enjoyment busting out the actual Battleship game than sitting through the film.

There is a scene post-credits that does hint at possible future installments, but I kept asking myself one question, “Why?” Rumor has it that several years goes Steven Segal attempted to revive his big-screen career by pitching an Under Siege 3 to Universal. Segal supposedly pitched the idea that his character would be on a naval ship that encountered extraterrestrial menace. The studio passed on this idea and, if there’s any truth to the rumor, they should have passed on this idea when it came time to make Battleship.

2 stars out of 5


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