The first thirty to forty minutes of director Peter Berg’s “Battleship” might be the worst thirty to forty minutes committed to film all year. The acting, writing, story, and individual scenes are all so bad you squirm with embarrassment for everyone involved. Were it not for the fact that I have a responsibility to the very nice people at Universal who sent me the screener, I would’ve shut it off.
Which would’ve been a mistake, because once the aliens show up and the plot fills with war strategy against impossible odds, and the theme fills with tribute to American warriors past and present; what we end up with is a film I look forward to seeing again.
The set-up of the plot is rote, which isn’t the problem — the problem is the execution. A few years after NASA stupidly starts to fire off a communications signal to a planet discovered with an atmosphere similar to Earth, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) gets arrested for attempting to impress a very hot blonde he meets at a bar. This leads to a confrontation with his brother Stone (a Naval officer), which leads to the rebellious and immature Alex somehow commanding a Naval destroyer.
Alex and the hot blonde get engaged and purely by movie-coincidence she just happens to be the daughter of an Admiral played by Liam Neeson. The Admiral doesn’t think much of her daughter’s boyfriend, who’s wildly undisciplined and enjoys restroom fistfights with his Japanese counterparts just to prove that his eventual character arc couldn’t be more predictable.
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad…
But you have to hang in there because once the aliens arrive to kill and conquer, everything improves exponentially. Best of all, this is where Berg successfully delivers a good old-fashioned American flag-waving war film. Yep, we’re the good guys and American veterans reaching back to World War II are the heroes.
There’s nothing subtle about “Battleship,” that’s for sure, and that includes its sentimental love for America, the Navy, and the men and women who serve both. But the plot itself becomes legitimately engaging once a game of cat and mouse begins between the relentless and very advanced aliens and our outgunned heroes.
“Battleship” is based on Hasbro’s board game of the same name and the story does a surprisingly good job incorporating familiar elements of the game into the plot. You will also enjoy moments of real tension and a couple of legitimately well-crafted, exciting, and memorable action scenes. Alex’s evolution as a man pays off in a nice, old-fashioned way, as well.
Hang in there. Promise it’s worth it.
Obamabots, however, should stay as far away as possible.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC