Review: “Battleship”

Battleship – or as I should probably call it, BATTLESHIP!!!, considering that it is officially the Loudest Movie Ever Made – plopped into the pop culture consciousness last year like so many Alka-Seltzers on a list of WTF film projects announced by the esteemed Hasbro toy company (alongside Candy Land and Ouija, if memory serves).

The response was one of resounding confusion – the idea of turning a game that we all spent our childhoods trying to avoid playing with our Scotch-hazed grandfathers into a massive action film about an alien invasion was as logical as turning Connect Four into a musical about polygamist online dating.

The trailers have been roundly scoffed at, the promise of pop tart Rihanna defending humanity against an interstellar threat widely ridiculed (will it be revealed that the creatures have a fatal weakness to the sound of someone rhythmically slapping their pubic mound?), and the whole enterprised dismissed as mindless Hollywood nostalgia marketeering at its bombastic worst.

Rihanna

After seeing the film earlier this week, I’m here to affirm our worst fears:

Yes, Battleship is a deafening, seizure-inducing, patently ridiculous piece of titanium flotsam.

Yes, Battleship is an aggressive and shameless “America: F*CK YEAH!” military propaganda fever dream akin to a feature-length ad for the U.S. Armed Forces co-directed by Michael Bay and a trash compactor.

And worst of all:

Yes, Battleship is a hell of a lot of fun.

At the film’s start we learn that a decade ago scientists began transmitting a signal to a planet in another solar system that had conditions similar to earth’s – and therefore, presumably, the potential to support life. As one scientist (played by the brilliant Hamish Linklater from The New Adventures of Old Christine) grumbles at the time, “this is going to be like Columbus and the Indians – only we’re the Indians.” There’s lots of snazzy graphics and CGI renderings of signals being blasted through space that are loaded with ominous, humming intensity, and the stage is set for an extraterrestrial smackdown of truly epic proportions.

First things first, though: How ’bout a 10-minute sequence about a drunk guy trying to steal a chicken burrito from a Kwik-E-Mart?

Taylor Kitch and his bicep argue

Yes, Battleship is a movie that wants to have it all. One minute it wants to be Top Gun, with a slo-mo soccer match standing in for the iconic sand volleyball game (actually, most of the film’s first act is in slow-motion – if you reverted all the shots to regular speed, the movie would be twenty-two minutes long). The next it wants to be a slapstick romcom about a slacker who would break into a convenience store and take several charges of taser to impress a hot girl he just met (all that’s missing is Matthew McConaghey). At one point – thanks to an unexpectedly sentimental message about honoring our elders – it even bears a passing resemblance to Cocoon: The Return.

And then there’s the whole “aggressive aliens hell-bent on driving us to extinction” bit.

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