From the moment we learned that Battleship would be based around an alien invasion at sea, we knew that the movie adaptation of our beloved childhood board game would be bad. But what we never counted on was that we wouldn’t be able to write it off—that it would be so self-aware of its awful layers that instead it would transform into one of the most entertaining movies of 2012.
Let me say it again: I had more fun at Battleship than at any movie this year. More than Cabin in the Woods (where I shrieked and gasped at all the great twists) and The Avengers (where I led the uproarious applause for this successful superhero film). Instead of letting the various drawbacks — absurd alien plot, Michael Bay-esque action sequences, wooden acting — topple the film, director Peter Berg and the cast ran with it.
I can’t believe that I laughed and cheered and gasped this much in a movie while stone-cold sober. My friend and I confessed to feeling drunk just by seeing the movie. I’m probably going to actually buy tickets because I want Battleship to succeed. I know that you’re going to need some convincing to see this, so I’ve broken down the different factors that combined to make Battleship so enjoyable. And because a lot of the fun came from not knowing what was happening next, I’ve done my best to avoid overly-specific spoilers.
Taking itself seriously: There’s something about seeing Hasbro in the opening credits alongside Universal Pictures — set to inspiring action music, no less — that will set off a giggle alarm. Battleship strikes that tricky balance between presenting a film that’s clearly attempting to stand on its own as an entry in the action genre, while still aware that it will probably fall short of that goal. And yet, if the movie had been at all self-conscious, we wouldn’t have had as much fun. A dramatic score including the screaming strains of AC/DC let you know that it’s OK to laugh.
Shifting tone: To that end, this movie basically starts four times (as my friend pointed out). There’s the ludicrous set-up about the aliens living on Planet G (an Earthlike planet some lightyears away); then a drunken Taylor Kitsch (rocking some Tim Riggins hair) breaks into a convenience store to steal a chicken burrito for Brooklyn Decker, in a sequence that one reviewer likened to an SNL sketch; then suddenly it’s six years later and Alex Hopper (Kitsch) is a lieutenant in the Navy serving under his brother Stone.
Seriously. Alexander Skarsgård‘s character is named Stone Hopper.
Aliens! At first I was calling this movie “Transformers meets Pearl Harbor,” but the major difference is that the ships that crashland in the Pacific Ocean aren’t intelligent machines but rather are controlled by humanoid aliens. There’s a brief flash of intelligent commentary in the fact that they gauge every machine and organic being they run into and classify them as red (threat) or green (safe)… but that gets swallowed up in the giant explosions.
Also, watching the utterly inept humans from NASA/the Pentagon/the CIA trying to wrap their heads around this alien threat is entertaining in and of itself. (Look for a couple of recognizable cameos in the war room!)