Movie review: ‘Battleship’

By Andrew Bain

Loud. Louder. Loudest.

Those are the three different volumes present in one of the first summer blockbusters of the year, “Battleship.” The movie’s plot is relatively simple. Humans have sent a radio signal out to deep space and it has finally been answered by things that are unequivocally hostile. A group of ships crashes into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oahu, right in the middle of naval war games.

Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a slacker turned semi-slacking naval officer, and he is poised to be kicked out of the navy by Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), who just happens to be the disapproving father of Hopper’s girlfriend, Sam (Brooklyn Decker). But that’s all before the aliens attack, and from then on the movie is similar to Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series, but it takes place on the ocean.

Whether or not viewers enjoy this film is going to be entirely dependent on expectations. Audience members expecting anything remotely in the realm of subtlety is not going to find it. That being said, if moviegoers want explosions, (mostly) witty one-liners and super loud music by Steve Jablonsky (who, incidentally, also composed the score for “Transformers)”, they will find exactly what they’re looking for in “Battleship.”

And that’s because the special effects in this movie are spectacular. From the alien ships to smaller, demonic wheel-ships that reign terror down on unsuspecting military installments, alien technology is portrayed with exact and horrific scope. These aliens are packing some serious heat.

It’s in the area of acting that “Battleship” really falls short. Kitsch and Neeson turn in fine performances, but Decker’s performance is usually shallow, and she rarely gives her lines any sort of context – they don’t fit the intensity of the situation.

The best two performances come from two supporting characters. The first is from Jesse Plemons as Boatswain Mate Seaman Jimmy “Ordy” Ord, who acted alongside Kitsch in the television adaptation of “Friday Night Lights” (which Peter Berg also oversaw). Plemons comes across as naturally petrified, and his desperation to receive orders from Hopper in the face of an alien onslaught is truly convincing.

But the best and most surprising performance comes from Rihanna, who plays Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes. Rihanna clearly has a blast portraying the tough young woman who excels at making things blow up. It’s a little weird seeing Rihanna as an officer in the Navy, but she makes it work in what will surely not be her last major role in a film.

But one only has so much time to take in any of these performances, because then the explosions and screeching of metal start in again, vaulting the viewer right back into the chaos and combat.

When all is said and done, “Battleship” is good for what it is: an action-packed, testosterone-filled blockbuster. The special effects and music are good and loud, the acting is okay – if spotty at times – and the scenery of the island is beautiful as well. The film is no Academy Award contender, but it was never trying to be.

“Battleship” is perfectly comfortable being a somewhat shallow, but nonetheless diverting and enjoyable action movie, and so it does a good job at being just that. And it must be noted that, even though the “Transformers” series was reviewed negatively by critics, it made a huge amount of money and was successful with audiences. “Battleship” can be expected to have the same success.

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