Peter Berg’s 131-minute action thriller stars Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, and popular singer Rihanna. The film begins with NASA’s intrusive Beacon Project which has situated communication devices somewhere in Hawaii in a bid to reach out to inhabitants of the earth-like Planet G.
For NASA’s Dr. Nogrady (Adam Godley), it is man’s first successful attempt at phoning E.T. One of the scientists involved in the project rightly predicts that “This could be like Columbus and the Indians. Except this time, we are the Indians.”
On the other side of town, Alex Hopper (Kitsch) is celebrating his birthday. His brother, Stone (Skarsgård) is trying to get him to commit to a purposeful life possibly by joining him in the United States Navy. Alex refuses to see his brother’s point and is soon distracted by Sam (Decker), a leggy blonde who is having a hard time ordering a chicken burrito. He tries to impress her by getting the burrito through any means possible i.e. breaking into a supermarket. In the process, he is tasered and arrested. The good thing is he gets the girl. But Sam, a physical therapist, is the daughter of Stone’s boss Admiral Shane (Neeson). Having had enough of Alex’s shenanigans, Stone orders his younger brother into the navy.
Now a Lieutenant in the Navy, Alex joins fellow US and Japanese troops in a RIMPAC exercise. His bull-headedness and reckless attitude continue to rub others the wrong way. Not even Stone can help him (“Who do I call to teach you humility? I’m sorry, I don’t have that number”). In no time, it seems Alex will be kicked out of the Navy. That’s when things take a weird turn.
Funny stuff happens when E.T. decides to return Earth’s call. The much-expected call from Planet G comes through during the Navy’s RIMPAC exercises. But the aliens are not in town for a holiday. The RIMPAC training becomes the real deal in the face of the fatal, extra-terrestrial threat on the Hawaiian waterfront. Never-before-seen alien battleships land in the water, creating an impenetrable dome over their fleet. Hong Kong is hit by God-knows what and mayhem is unleashed on the Pacific Coast.
In a blink of an eye, Alex finds himself captain of a battleship. With the help of his former rival Captain Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), Petty Officer Raikes (Rihanna), the talkative boatswain Ord (Jesse Plemons) and the surviving crew of the USS John Paul Jones, they take on the terrifying alien forces. But these reptile-like aliens do not find the humans’ attack funny, and they respond with huge missiles and chain-balls of fire.
With their superior firepower, the aliens make a mess of the humans. It comes as no surprise when the last resort for Alex and his team is the 70-year old ‘Mighty Mo,’ a ‘war museum’ complete with its own relic crew of Navy veterans and loaded guns.
Sam and double-amputee army officer, Lt. Col Mick Canales (Gregory Gadson) take on another batch of aliens preparing their take-off on the Oahu Mountains; they get some help from the clumsy NASA scientist Cal (Hamish Linklater). While everyone’s busy getting their hands dirty, the Defense Secretary, NASA management and the Navy top brass dish out orders from their comfort zones.
Kitsch is not bad in his role as the free-wheeling Alex; he handles his transformation from zero to hero pretty well but loses nothing of the attitude that is his strength and weakness. Skarsgård is the typical big brother, almost always looking out for his naughty kid brother. In direct contrast to Kitsch’s character, his stature alone is commanding. Rihanna’s acting is tolerable and she looks better with lots of clothes on; her tough mien is nothing like the troubled singer we are familiar with. One nagging thought, though is how come her cap stays on all through the disaster with aliens. Neeson’s moments on screen are enjoyable, leaving no room for questions about the revival of his acting career that seemed almost dead.
As is usual for the Hollywood disaster movie, man overcomes his enemy, UFO or not. This screen adaptation of the popular board-game is no different: Battleship delivers on action, some humour, romance and lessons in valour. What is missing is dialogue. Scripted by Erich and Jon Hoeber, the lines are a far cry from the brothers’ commendable work on the R.E.D. screenplay. There are a lot of lame lines and scenarios here which the actors could not possibly breath any life into, unlike what obtains in ‘The Avengers’.
Similarities to Michael Bay’s Transformers also do not help much and the prospect of a sequel – unnecessary as it seems – is scary, scarier than the alien attack from Planet G.