Let’s be honest: Battleship is Bullship. That honor is soon justified, when Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) steals a burrito to impress the va-voom daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of an admiral (Liam Neeson). A boozing screw-up at 26, Alex nearly flushes out of the Navy, but then the aliens arrive.
Of course, they arrive during 14-nation fleet exercises off Hawaii. Of course, Alex will soon command our one little destroyer fighting inside the aliens’ huge protection shield, subverting by pure guy-guts their superior technology. Of course, his main helper will be a Japanese captain who is the final, healing apology for Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, Alex’s va-voom blonde will lead the charge in the hills above Honolulu, backed by a leg-less Army veteran.
As more bullship ballast, we get references to Colonel Harland “KFC” Sanders, comedian Jerry Lewis, and the equally ancient Greek poet Homer. We have singer Rihanna as slinky-cute chief petty officer Cora “Weps” Raikes, a recruiting poster all by herself. Supremely, we have vast effects and mighty explosions, because this film is based on a Hasbro game. The toy-and-game empire has nimbly and digitally recruited the U.S. Navy (including several San Diego–based ships). Given all the firepower, director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) does not need to fine-tune dialogue such as “I got a bad feeling about this” and “We’re all gonna die!”
Beyond Taylor Kitsch, there is kitsch bilge to rival Independence Day, The Perfect Storm, and (my fave) Con Air. Alex and his hardy crew put the battleship Missouri to sea. Never mind that it became a war museum in 1992. A bunch of semi-derelict WWII vets are ready for action (The AARP Dozen?). “I got eight boilers hot, rock and roll!” croaks one old salt, after the remarkably brief fire-up. Even the aliens are impressed. The old ship can turn on a dime, gets jolted to a stop by its anchor chain, and blasts holes in hardware we don’t even understand.
There is a tiny guest gig (unintended by him) for President Obama. There is a bearded, nerdy intellectual who becomes a man by duking an alien. The aliens look like the head-trip of a medieval-armor fanatic. But they’re not human, not Hasbro heroes. Only our guys can manually haul a thousand-pound shell through the narrow, twisting corridors of the Missouri. Listen closely, armchair admirals, and you can hear Steven Seagal saluting all the way from Under Siege.
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