I’d like to welcome Battleship into the list of childhood memories that have been fundamentally and irreparably modified due to the adaptation of a movie. I’d also like to welcome it to the extremely short list of movies adapted from board games (Clue being the only other real one, followed by the fictional games Jumanji and Zathura). Somehow Hasbro has managed to not only milk their toys for movie money, they are beginning on a pursuit to take advantage of all their board games as well! I remember when Battleship was an innocent little board game about carnage on the high seas. Now the movie has tarnished it, and made it a movie about alien… carnage on the high seas… Ok, so it’s really not all that different, but there was a bit of a stretch (read: artistic license) to fit the fairly straight forward board game into a 2 hour film. And they really didn’t do too terrible of a job either!
To begin, casting was actually pretty decent. It could be considered a sort of redemption movie for quite a bit of the cast. Liam Neeson did spectacularly as his typical “man in charge” role after the mess that was The Grey. He managed to give Admiral Shane a mean streak that showcased his power, while at the same time, you can always feel that underlying layer of emotion. Excellent balance. Taylor Kitsch is the other actor who needed a boost in reputation after the critics hated John Carter so much (I thought it was pretty decent, but to each his own.) His performance in this film as Alex Hopper was superb, I thought, because even just his appearance at the beginning compared to the end show a large character shift. He was the perfect man to cast for this sea-faring coming of age tale (which is essentially what it is.) Alexander Skarsgard (sic) did a nice job as Stone Hopper, Alex’s older brother. Although we don’t see a lot of him in the film, he did nicely when it was necessary for him to do so. Brooklyn Decker did a fine job as Sam. My only problem with her is that she seemed fairly necessary to the plot, yet we got relatively low screen time from her. Also, oddly enough, Rihanna makes her big screen debut in this movie. Why she’d pick this one, or why she even wants to go into this industry is a mystery to me, but she seemed to know what she was doing, so that’s a good start for her! While the tone of this movie isn’t really funny, we do, luckily, get quite a bit of comic relief from Cal Zapata (played by the fitting Hamish Linklater.) So overall, casting was pretty well done.
The plot was probably the main concern of many going into this film. Afterall, the board game this was based on consists of calling out coordinates and shouting hit or miss. The difference in this movie is that your playing with aliens that have giant ships that are nearly inpenetrable. It was an odd way to make this board game movie material, but I’m not sure there was another way to make it marketable given the focus on aliens and vampires this year. Luckily, though, it all made sense. Pacing dragged a little at times, but I was never checking my watch to see if it was almost over. I think the only times where it was prone to drag was when nothing was happening. Not big story moments where the action isn’t happening, but just the little things thrown in to make it longer. This could have been a bit shorter, with a little less fighting, and still been a fine movie. Surprisingly enough, the story, while not necessarily touching, was more emotionally centered than you would think given the concept. As I said above, it’s essentially a coming of age story for Alex Hopper, who starts as an immature egotistical manchild, and becomes, by the end of the movie, an inspiring leader. The character development, in this aspect, was very effective.
This movie is about aliens and fighting on the surface, so of course the visuals were pretty good. The alien ships didn’t look entirely realistic, which is exactly what’s supposed to happen because they are aliens. They looked like actual ships from a fantasy world. The aliens themselves don’t get much screen time given they are in suits, but the few instances where we are shown the actual aliens (not in the suits), they are very well done. The suits themselves seem a little ripped from the Halo franchise to be perfectly honest, which was a bit disappointing to see so much work put into something that everyone has already seen. The rest of the scenery (for the most part) is just Hawaii and oceans. So, while some of the visuals were impressive, it’s certainly not what I’d watch if I wanted to see a visual masterpiece. Especially with Prometheus and the new Spiderman movie right around the corner in IMAX.
Ultimately, the movie may be a tad overwrought with unnecessary action, and the scenery may be slightly mundane, but the acting from the entire cast, as well as the story and character development throughout are plenty reason to see this film. If you can sit through the excessive battles, I would definitely recommend this film. It’s not the greatest film of all time, it certainly has its fair share of problems, but the main thread of the story is absolutely worth catching. As I said, don’t go in hoping for the most amazing visuals you’ve ever seen, or the most heart-warming tale, but go in prepared for another Summer popcorn flick and be surprised by the relative depth it has. This movie isn’t for everyone, and by the time this gets posted, it will most likely be out of theaters, but catch in on Netflix or rent it or something. There’s no doubt it’s worth at least that.
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