Studios are aggressively utilizing the franchises and intellectual property their parent companies and conglomerates control to reintroduce into mainstream consciousness. By doing so, these companies target families and children in order to retain interest in their products. The game Battleship had incredibly catchy television commercial in the 1990s and today Battleship is one of the most recent and most egregious examples of this abuse towards beloved franchises. Instead of attempting to capture the one-on-one competition of the pen and paper game, this film chooses instead to create an alien invasion narrative and places the Navy on a high pedestal.
After discovering a distant planet with similar habitable conditions, NASA builds a satellite in order to send signals to the planet. During RIMPAC naval exercises, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) gets into a brawl with Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) which leads to Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) and Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) to choosing to discharge Hopper after the exercises. The signal sent out into space has been returned by five spaceships that land on earth, and take no time delivering devastation to Hong Kong and Oahu, Hawaii.
Battleship is an unapologetic vanity plate for the Navy and is an blow ’em up action film that caters to military personnel. The film even utilizes currently serving Navy men and women, disabled personnel, and even seasoned veterans as non-actors to provide clout and street cred. These non-actors deliver the atrocious dialogue without passion, and much of the rapport between the characters sinks like their own ships. The alien invasion narrative is certainly nothing new, and much of the film is a simple formula that feels more like Transformers meets War of the Worlds while making a billboard that champion’s the Navy. Perhaps it is time to recognize the Navy? Most action films like this use Army, Marine, or fictional super secret intelligence agencies.
Four of the alien ships land around Hawaii, specifically near Pearl Harbor. The landing of the ships is a modern symbol of the attack on Pearl Harbor, as if we need another cinematic reminder after Michael Bay’s own action period piece. It is additional proof the that film has an agenda to cater to military personnel and support the military industrial complex.
The first act of the film is filled with slapstick and humorous dialogue which does effectively place the film in the ever important suspension of disbelief. The amount of humor early in the film is important because the rest of the film becomes a pressure test for the theater’s speakers. Early in the film, in order to impress Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), Hopper breaks into a convenience store in order to obtain the chicken burrito that Samantha desires. The visual gag, along with Hopper’s other hijinks, is loosely referred to again while Hopper is verbally disciplined by Admiral Shane and compared to Jerry Lewis. Overall, the comic relief in the film is cheap and seems to only amuse a low brow audience.
Except for the non-actors, Battleship lands in shallow waters by using only beautiful performers to grace the screen. Brooklyn Decker and her subplot is essentially meaningless, she is merely there to give the film a romantic interest for Hopper. Alexander Skarsgard and Taylor Kitsch simply recite their lines and not any better than the non-actors in the film. Only Liam Neeson actively performs in the film, but his presence in the film is minimal, and he too may also just be taking a simple check. To round out the mass appeal, Rihanna is featured as the only active Navy female in the film, also present to provide androgynous sex appeal.
Battleship forgoes, like all franchise adaptations, to remain loyal to the original source “material” and essentially takes on an entirely different agenda. This alien invasion narrative, an allegory to the threat of terrorism really, fails to offer anything new, and neither do the relationships between the protagonists and the other characters. Essentially, Battleship capsizes like the the Costa Concordia, and everyone should jump ship.