They’re making movies out of board games.  Hollywood’s aversion to original ideas—people might not like them—has brought us to this sad state.  This week Battleship, the venerable baby boomer time waster, gets the treatment.

And yet, romantic optimist that I am, I believe that any idea, no matter how unpromising, can work in the right hands.  This project was given to director Peter Berg.  I can only assume that this was a mistake.  Michael Bay must have been busy and some intern probably forgot to check Berg’s resume to make sure there weren’t any good films on it.  Peter Berg directed The Rundown, Hancock and Friday Night Lights, all of which are pretty good movies. 

Here the Navy is fighting alien invaders.  That’s really all you need to know about the plot.  The Air Force did it in 1996 with Independence Day and the Marines fought them last year in Battle Los Angeles.  Presumably the Army has next with the bug-eyed monsters and then maybe the Coast Guard will throw down with them.

Berg and screenwriters, Erich and Jon Hoeber manage to inject back stories for the main characters that are compelling enough that you actually care about what’s happening, at least a little.  Taylor Kitsch plays the hero, Lt. Alex Hopper, a smart talented officer who has trouble with his temper.  It’s really not a ground breaking or even difficult role and he does OK.  Liam Neeson grunts and glares as Admiral Shane.  He’s not stretching his range but it’s fun to watch.  Of special note is Gregory D. Gadson, a double amputee and veteran.  He plays Lt. Col. Mick Canales, a fairly major role and he does a good job with it.

They obviously had the cooperation of the Navy and you get to see real battleships, aircraft carriers and fighter planes.  This is great for the visuals but as a price for their cooperation, filmmakers must consent to script reviews by the military.  Therefore, this is, in part, a two hour commercial for the Navy.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that as long as you know going in that you’re only getting one perspective.

Battleship goes an hour and a half before it becomes too stupid to live.  That’s actually pretty good for this type of movie.  Up to that point it is a fairly engrossing melodrama and then they bring out heaping trays of corn and cheese.  I won’t reveal what happens at the end but I will say that when you rip off Under Siege, you’ve gone beyond derivative.

Battleship almost works.


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May 2012
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