Battleship, the new action flick by director Peter Berg (Hancock, Friday Night Lights), pits a lone Navy destroyer against an army of hostile alien invaders in a rollicking version of the classic Hasbro game. Despite its sci-fi set-up, the movie does not resemble War of the Worlds or Independence Day as much as it does Top Gun. With explosions galore, some goofy comedy and glorious moments of good old American heroism—plus Rihanna’s amazing feature film acting debut—Battleship offers two solid hours of action-packed fun.
Taylor Kitsch stars as Lieutenant Alex Hopper, the black sheep of a staunch Navy family, whose boorish behavior during the RIMPAC international maritime exercises is about to get him kicked out of the military. But when an unknown alien force crashes the planet and puts an impenetrable force field over Hawaii, Hopper’s destroyer becomes one of the few military vessels inside the dome that can strike back at the invaders. Hopper unexpectedly finds himself in command. Can he defeat the aliens before they manage to…sink his battleship?
In terms of special effects, Berg’s film delivers plenty of visual fireworks. Part Transformer, part Romulan à la Star Trek (2009), the alien ships look pretty darn cool as they sling their whirling razor spheres of death toward Honolulu. And the movie does provide some nice nods to the Hasbro game when alien bombs sink like pegs into the naval defenders before exploding. Despite all the technology, however, the movie is at its best when Hopper counters the enemy using brilliant old-school, low-tech tactics.
As a work of science fiction, Battleship is a little shaky. The screenwriters, Erich and Jon Hoeber (Red), develop a cohesive and well-paced plot, but they introduce mysteries that are never explained and neglect to develop the alien backstory. As enemies go, the aliens look great but are fairly boring. Fortunately, the movie packs so many thrills, the audience may not notice.
The cast creates some truly fun characters onscreen. Kitsch channels young Tom Cruise as maverick Hopper. He’s quite believable as the guy who can woo a gorgeous woman (the admiral’s daughter, played by Brooklyn Decker) by stealing a chicken burrito for her, and as the kid who just has to press the proverbial red button to see what it will do. Alexander Skarsgård as Hopper’s big brother and Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane embody the nobility of the armed forces, and Hamish Linklater brings comic relief as a nerdy scientist co-opted into sabotaging alien communications. Japanese superstar Tadanobu Asano also shines as Captain Yugi Nagata, Hopper’s nemesis on the soccer field, but greatest ally in real battle.
Then there’s Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes, Hopper’s right-hand woman. Rihanna projects intelligence, toughness and cool as she sprints around the ship to save the day. Her face is made for the big screen, and she rolls off cheeky one-liners like she’s been acting all her life. Her character is ever-present but, unfortunately, her role is strangely limited.
Berg’s thriller goes heavy on the action and light on the sci-fi, but it delivers a fun ride. Learn more at the official Battleship site.