Under the Radar

Battleship Avoids Naval Disaster



Message to U.S. taxpayers: your pricey military technology may be no match for alien Master Chiefs from Planet Goldilocks. Also, Navy-approved commanders would likely get torched early in the conflict, making the world's only hope a bunch of misfits who deserve to get kicked out of the service.

That's the appropriate, Pentagon-approved message delivered in Peter Berg's new movie Battleship, a Hollywood blockbuster with at least a passing connection to the Hasbro board game we all played as kids.

It's not surprising that a movie who script was allegedly concocted on the fly is a giant mess, but it is surprising that the mess is a lot more entertaining that the sub-Transformers movie a lot of us expected. The free-spirit-who-learns-to-lead plotline is as hackneyed and boring as you'd expect and Taylor Kitsch (who also starred in that John Carter trainwreck) and former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker really can't act a lick, but Berg (who also directed Friday Night Lights) makes sure the supporting cast has interesting things to do.


Most compelling is Lt. Col. Mick Canales, a wounded veteran character played by actual Army vet Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who had both legs amputated above the knees after being injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. Decker's character Samantha works in a rehab center when she's not caught in the conflict between her dad Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) and her hotheaded BF Kitsch. It's her attempt to get through to Canales that puts them on top of a mountain when it's time to save the world and Gadson's glowering at aliens is just about the best thing the whole movie. The scenes in the rehab center surely came about through the Pentagon's involvement with this movie and they're definitely the best PR that's on offer here.

There's at least an attempt to incorporate actual Battleship gameplay into the plot, something about the aliens' ability to block radar and a workaround offered by measuring buoy displacement. Berg also tries to work around the "we uses destroyers not battleships now" problem with a creative use of the USS Missouri in the movie's final battle.

The aliens attacks are caused by the irresponsible actions of nerdy scientists with beards and glasses and the science community doesn't offer much in the way of tactical support until the end of the movie, when whiny scientist shows up and whacks an alien with his science kit.  Rihanna's part is much bigger than you'd expect. She looks comfortable with her weapons and her Barbados accent doesn't interfere with the dialog too often.

If you're still buzzing after watching a summer movie as ambitious as The Avengers, then you're likely to have some problems with this. Still, Liam Neeson gets paid, Turtle from Entourage gets a (small) job and microwave chicken burritos get some awesome product placement. If you dont care that Battleship is a giant, processed, manufactured piece of Hollywood product, then it's a pretty fun way to spend two hours.

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