At the heart of Battleship, there is an epic war waging – and no, I’m not referring to the film’s central battle between the Navy and a group of sea-dwelling aliens. The real battle taking place features director Peter Berg, the creative force behind both the film and TV adaptations of Friday Night Lights, and his struggle to make an engaging and entertaining popcorn flick while handicapped by a ridiculous premise and an ulterior motive to sell board games.
I’m sad to say that Berg loses the fight. And he loses it quite badly.
Battleship, by any measurable standard, is a terrible film. The plot in general is one you’ve seen thousands of times before. Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a screw up with a heart of gold and tons of untapped potential who is about to wash out of the military. Further complicating things is the fact that he’s in love with Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), whose father just so happens to be the powerful and intimidating Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), the guy looking to boot him out of the Navy. Through a set of incredibly contrived circumstances, Hopper is put in charge of a ship and forced into action against the alien spacecrafts and, lo and behold, it turns out that maybe he’s not such a screw up after all.
And why I say contrived circumstances, I mean contrived. The whole thing needs to take place in the water for the entire Battleship concept to work, so for reasons never truly explained the aliens hunker down in the ocean. The alien craft creates a force field that traps three ships inside with the aliens and everyone else, like Admiral Shane, stuck on the outside powerless to interfere. This keeps airplanes from getting involved in the firefight, since this is Battleship, not Top Gun, and it keeps Hopper in charge, since no higher ups can come in and relieve him of his duty.