Movie Review: Bland BATTLESHIP Makes Game Effort

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'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Everyone involved in Battleship — from director Peter Berg to star Taylor Kitsch to the various members of the cast and crew — deserves credit. It can't be easy to make a movie out of a board game; especially this board game, which consists of making random guesses and is only marginally more complex than Tic-tac-toe.

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It would be simple enough to just use the name as a starting point and depart wildly from there, but several parts of Battleship make an honest attempt at bringing the rainy-day antics of the board game to life, down to a sequence where the movie's heroes, led by Kitsch, actually engage alien invaders in what's effectively a live-sized version of the game, down to alphanumeric markers.

So for earnestness alone, Battleship scores points. The movie seems determined to not just be an action film, but an uplifting tale of the human condition, seen in the heroism of double-amputee Mick (played be real-life combat vet Gregory D. Gadson) and a third act that brings a host of aged sailors out of retirement and into war with the aliens. The alien invasion plot also serves as a message that we shouldn't bother civilizations that don't need to be bothered, though that isn't harped on much.

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But while Battleship may have good intentions, it's also not very interesting. Even by action movie standards, you don't really get to know any of the characters, beyond Kitsch's wayward leading man Alex Hopper, and, to a lesser extent, his more responsible brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård).  Despite admirable efforts, the characters played by Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna don't do much despite extended screentime, and Liam Neeson's role amounts to little more than a gruff extended cameo.

Of course, you don't see Battleship because you want a rich character drama, you see it because of the action. That's not too compelling either, thanks to the generic nature of the villains — you learn very little about the aliens or why they're doing what they're doing, existing only to wreak havoc on Earth. That's somewhat similar to the climax of Avengers, but that film had the considerable advantage of Tom Hiddleston's Loki as a charismatic antagonist at the head of it all. With the good guys so thinly drawn and the bad guys essentially faceless agents of destruction, it's hard to care about anything that's happening once the action kicks in — which is a problem, since that's the main attraction.

Battleship is not a terrible film. Unlike fellow Hasbro property Transformers — which Battleship's marketing obviously wanted to remind you of — there's no sophomoric humor or lingering, lascivious shots of female characters. Ultimately, Battleship the movie really does pay tribute to Battleship the board game — they're both reasonably acceptable ways to pass the time if other options have dried up.

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