And now for a movie nobody asked for and not many bothered to check out this past weekend—Battleship, based on the classic popular Hasbro board game of the same name. This suffocating bass-thumping bore of a science fiction action picture has been genetically engineered by movie studio heads to replicate the look, feel, and financial success of the Transformers series.  Poor poor Director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Hancock), known for his gritty bang-bang panache, seems to have been spearheaded into steering this brain-dead hunk of junk.  Like recent box office bombs John Carter and Prince of Persia, Battleship is a franchise non-starter, not necessarily because of all the dollar signs that are flying far away from the project, but because the film is little more than a dumping ground for loud bangs, awful dialogue, poor storytelling, and flashy special effects.

As much as critics love to hate Director Michael Bay (director of the Transformers films), likely because of his box-office dominance with pure B-movie F/X-tasms, his characters typically have more life than detractors will give him credit for.  He simply lives to take destruction to the max, but at least he typically gets top talent such as Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, and Bruce Willis to do his bidding.  Bay knows what he’s doing and he has capable actors picking up the slack—a lot of the time.  Berg attempts his best Bay impression with Battleship.

The premise of the film involves a 20-something bum named Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) whose brother ends up plopping him in the Navy to shape him up.  Some time later into his service, he’s a hothead with little control and confidence captaining a Destroyer vessel at sea for Naval War Games under the hand of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson).  Shane has a military physical therapist daughter, Sam (Brooklyn Decker) that Hopper wishes to marry if only he could get the courage to ask his would-be father-in-law for his blessing.

Hopper’s in hot water after a confrontation on board the ship with another crewman, and before he gets the boot from the Navy, he must man up when extra terrestrials crash at sea in mega war vessels with the intent of erasing humanity for the usual purposes.  The invasion becomes the ultimate test of leadership for Hopper whose ship becomes trapped under an impenetrable forced field with no entrance or exit.  His crew must literally wage war on the savage aliens before more invaders arrive.

While Berg has a similar knack as Bay for gritty over-the-top action, Battleship doesn’t work partly because it was a bad idea to begin with, and partly because the skid marks on the script aren’t whited out by the actors.  Instead the filmmakers use expensive visual effects as stitches and an ear-banging sound mix as morphine all in an effort to blind our eyes and numb our brains from this bloody mess.  The aliens aren’t given a purpose, and neither are the heroes.  Contrived to the max to ensure that extra-terrestrials in mobile spacecrafts must do battle with the Navy at sea—with only the Navy to stop Earth’s enslavement—the writers wipe away any and all possibilities of other branches of military getting involved.  Why?  Because this is Battleship, that’s why.  And apparently Battleship is about any alien invasion at sea. And it’s also about stupidity, which I could forgive if the film had intended to be stupid.

This is a movie where toothpick pop star Rihanna plays a Navy officer that takes a giant alien-robot-fist to the face and walks away unscathed.  But I think Berg doesn’t take the silliness far enough and neither does his cast as they sleepwalk through their rusty dialogue in between fireballs. Someone try and tell me the movie has any ambition to exist as anything other than a board game property attempting franchise potential.  This left me wondering how it would be possible to do a sequel… Aliens invade again?  Only the Navy can stop them… again?  Even amidst wrecking-ball destruction happening in populated cities?  Doesn’t this whole intended ‘franchise’ seem doomed from that start???

I’m sure eight-year-old boys will find something to like in all this, even though the film lacks any sort of wit, charm, humor, or star charisma that elevated the just-as-bloated and corn-breaded Transformers.  But since audiences would rather be distracted by the far more entertaining Avengers and the sci-fi sequel Men in Black III, I have no doubt Battleship will sink to the memory’s ocean floor in only a few weeks time.

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