Battleship Stays Afloat

Many times I have been very disappointed in a movie. Often, the preview looks really good, and but when you see it, you realize the best parts of the movie were in the trailer. More rarely, however, does a movie that looks stupid actually exceed any low expectations that I have set for it. Battleship blew away all my expectations.

After seeing the preview, I made jokes about how lame the premise was and that Liam Nesson would do anything these days. My father summed it up succinctly: “It’s Transformers in the waster.” What I hadn’t expected was the humor, the character development, and the edge of your seat suspense that the movie included.

After breaking into a convenience store to score a chicken burrito for his a more, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsh) joins the navy in order to give his life direction. His over protective brother is an exemplary Commander who is constantly disappointed in his brother (Alexander Skarsgård). After a scuffle with a fellow navy member, Admiral Shane (Liam Nesson) decides to have Hopper removed from the NAVY. During routine war games, Hopper’s fleet comes into contact with an unidentified craft. After sending recon crew, the alien ship puts up a shield that cuts three ships off from the rest of the fleet. The alien quickly decimate two of the destroyers including the one with Hopper’s brother. Hopper is now the commanding officer and Earth’s only defense against the aliens. This rise to leadership is slow and shaky but Hopper leads his crew to victory.

The movie is of course action packed, and because you care about the characters you are moved anymore. You are tense when the USS John Paul Jones is targeted hoping Skarsgård won’t die. Nail biting when Hopper has to abandon ship but the motor is running close to him. Cheer when the cowardly doctor finds courage. Feel relief when Shane gives his consent for Hopper to marry his daughter. The love story is not over done.

The cast shines. Kitsh was not the reason John Carter did not do well; he pulls off the flunkie and the reluctant leader well but then develops into a strong believable leader. Rihanna did not have that annoying over acting reminiscent of Beyonce in Goldmember or Ashantiin Resident Evil Extinction. Her acting was believable as Petty Office Raikes who could both take orders and kick butt. Neeson’s Admiral Shane was both tough and human, a blend that Neeson has done well for years. Brooklyn Decker could have been better cast. Her performance was dry and bland even though she had an admirable professions, she didn’t get more than one dimensional and after a burrito.

The visual effects were stunning, easily rendered into the real world without looking too fakey. The aliens were just enough humanoid to be from a similar planet but different enough to distinguish between human and alien.

A nifty homage to the game was used during a sequence where the Navy is tracking the alien ships using water displacement. Seated in front of a green grid, white and red blips designated where the ships were or weren’t. Each location was used in the jargon from the game. It was a very entertaining way to connect the movie back to the game.

The Battleship in the title is the USS Missouri “MightyMo” that is used to take down the radio signals the aliens are using to contact their reinforcement. The audience willing suspends disbelief when the battleship off and sailing in a matter moments. I was perplexed by one aspect of the plot; if there planet was situated just the right place for life, as is ours, why were the aliens susceptible to our sun? Was theirs in a different state of evolution? Or have I not suspended my disbelief enough?

Though not a movie mast piece, Battleship is an engaging edge of your seat alien thriller. It succeeds from going to shaky premise to cohesive thriller. It was so much better than I had anticipated it to me. I haven’t had this much fun with a movie based on a board game since Clue.

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