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BATTLESHIP is board game bonanza boffo buffoonery

Posted on May 17th, 2012
Posted on May 17th, 2012

by Coop Cooper

Hollywood has recently begun mining venerable board games… not video games mind you but actual tabletop board games as motion picture properties. The first of these films is “Battleship” based off of the popular Hasbro game which made “You sunk my battleship!” an American catch phrase.

The story takes place off the coast of modern day Hawaii as the U.S. Navy is engaged in war games with the Japanese naval fleet. Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) might remind you of Maverick in “Top Gun.” He is a screw-up who was brow-beaten by his brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), into joining the Navy after his arrest for stealing a burrito from a convenience store to impress the daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of the fleet admiral (Liam Neeson). After screwing up one time too many, Hopper faces the possibility of a court martial after the war games. Luckily for him, a scouting alien invasion force is attracted to Earth by high-tech radio waves meant to contact extraterrestrial life… oops. Soon Hopper is off the hook when the aliens crash land in the water near his fleet and erect a force field, trapping the Earth ships inside with them.

Although it sounds completely idiotic, “Battleship” must’ve had some sharp writers tweaking the concept to turn this board game into a silly but exciting action film. It’s interesting how the filmmakers managed to add particular elements from the game: 1. The burrowing/exploding alien “peg” missiles 2. The aliens’ use of the forcefield creating an isolated battlefield 3. The tsunami buoy grid used to track and launch estimated attacks… all of these devices helped the film pay homage to the game. Eventually the story evolves far beyond the game into a larger battle including alien commandos and giant, remote-controlled killer buzz saws.

Ok, so it IS ridiculous, but like the slightly inferior “Transformer” films, “Battleship” never takes itself too seriously. In fact, comedic moments make up many of the fun sequences in the film.

Actor-turned-director Peter Berg (“The Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights”) should get a lot of credit for having the vision to keep this film from being a disaster. Of course he and his writers realized they couldn’t have a movie called “Battleship” without an actual U.S. battleship in the film. This leads up to a very cheesy but fun moment near the end that will either have veterans cheering or groaning. It’s an old-fashioned “hooray military” film in the vein of “Independence Day” that doesn’t disappoint in the explosion department.

The acting is what you expect in a film of this caliber; goofy and full of one-liners. Taylor Kitch excels in action films and his role in “John Carter” earlier this year proved that. Neeson and Skarsgard are wasted here and R&B music star Rhianna can act plenty tough but has zero acting chops. The best moments in the film go to a guy by the name of Army Lt. Col. Gregory D. Gadson, a real life disabled war hero, who actually gets to fight an alien commando hand-to-hand while standing on artificial legs.

If the thought of board game films make you shrug in disbelief, you better work out your shoulder muscles. Adam Sandler has signed on for the“Candy Land” movie due next year. Big directors have been fighting over the chance to direct a “Monopoly” movie for some reason and more games are lining up for exploitation. “Battleship” was a good time, but expect it to be all down hill from there.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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