- Last Updated: 11:48 AM, May 18, 2012
- Posted: 10:48 PM, May 17, 2012
Glug, glug, glug. Running time: 131 minutes. Rated PG-13 (action violence, profanity). At the Lincoln Square, the Empire, the Kips Bay, others.
All I expected out of “Battleship” was a stupid action movie. It’s more than that, though: It’s also a stupid comedy and a stupid sci-fi yarn. It makes “Top Gun” look like the work of Orson Welles. At least the Tom Cruise movie remembered to cast actual actors.
Mashing in ideas from “Independence Day” and “Transformers,” the movie goes awry immediately with a would-be hilarious character intro about greasy-haired ne’er-do-well Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) committing a felony to score a burrito for a hot girl (Brooklyn Decker) in a bar. His naval-officer brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgaard) sees officer material in this, and browbeats his callow sibling into joining the Navy — which generally doesn’t take felons, although that development isn’t as absurd as the notion that women who look like Brooklyn Decker hang around alone in dive bars eating burritos.
Somehow, a blink of an eye later, Alex is both the biggest foul-up in the Navy and yet also an important officer in the fleet commanded by his new girlfriend’s dad (Liam Neeson, who has maybe 10 minutes of screen time). During a naval exercise off Pearl Harbor called RIMPAC, which to me sounds more like some kind of porno lobbying outfit, the two Hoppers discover that alien attackers have ripped apart Hong Kong, and sent mysterious vessels into the Pacific rigged to go off at the exact moment a sailor comes knocking and asking if anybody’s home.
Pleasing as it is to contemplate an end-of-the-world scenario in which New York gets hit last, these aliens are hard to take seriously.
They’re essentially just tall dudes in Boba Fett armor with goatees. Despite their superior intelligence, they prove easily felled by such tricks as being walloped with a suitcase by a NASA geek. What’s more unforgivable is that, by firing grenades and balls of fire everywhere, they can pretty much destroy the entire fleet right away, but instead they hang back and allow the Americans to figure out their weaknesses. (It turns out they can’t deal with sunlight. Really. Even the extraterrestrials in “Signs” who couldn’t handle water probably laughed at these guys in alien middle school.)
Kitsch (a former model) registers very low on the charisma scale, but at least he’s better than the pop stars and models around him. The swimsuit model Decker is not now, and never will be, an actress, while Rihanna, as the ship’s gunner, proves her equal in vapidity. As destruction rains around her and the end of the world approaches, she spends the movie looking as if she’s waiting for her assistant to fetch her a latte.
Asian star Tadanobu Asano, as a Japanese officer working with the Americans, struggles with English, and has little energy left to act. Meanwhile, as a background sailor who carries the ship’s log of stale wisecracks, Jesse Plemons of “Friday Night Lights” (also the source of Kitsch and the film’s director, Peter Berg) does the same whimsical-nerd shtick that was charming on the TV show for several years, but now seems as ancient as a board game played with pegs and little plastic ships.
Yet one of the two semi-exciting scenes in the movie consists of the actors sitting around and actually playing the game for which the film is named (Foxtrot 24! Miss!) on a video grid they use to track the alien ships. The other great moment, which is so emotionally rich I temporarily thought it would rescue the movie, evokes the Navy’s majestic WWII legacy, but even that is soon pushed aside in favor of such idiocy as Decker suddenly becoming an expert stunt driver and using her SUV to defeat aliens by ramming into their equipment on shore.
It’s the kind of movie that contains both the line “I didn’t sign up for this bulls - - t” and (after aliens have already killed thousands of people) “I have a bad feeling about this.” The NASA geek keeps warning (with no justification) that when the aliens arrive, it’ll be like Columbus and the Indians, only “we’re the Indians.”
Between “Battleship” and “Transformers,” it’s the first that seems more like the effort of a primitive culture.