When the first trailer of BATTLESHIP debuted last summer, it certainly looks like TRANSFORMERS or you can say INDEPENDENCE DAY at sea.
Based on the classic Hasbro board game of the same name created back in 1967, this big-screen sci-fi action adventure stars Taylor Kitsch as Alex Hopper, the reckless brother of decorated Hawaii-based naval officer, Stone (Alexander Skarsgard). Alex loves to get himself into trouble, especially when he tries to court Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) who actually happens to be the daughter of U.S. Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Frustrated by his young brother's wayward behavior, Stone enlists him into the U.S. Navy and hopes he can learn a thing or two about self-discipline and responsibility.
Assigned as a lieutenant aboard USS John Paul Jones, he accompanies his brother and a fleet of naval officers including Petty Officer Raikes (Rihanna) and fellow crew mate Ordy (Jesse Plemons) for a military exercise. But things unexpectedly get out of the hand when they encounter a mysterious giant vessel floating in the middle of the ocean. Upon close investigation, they discover the vessel is actually an alien ship ready to engage any possible threat while on a mission to build a power source in the ocean.
Director Peter Berg who last helmed Will Smith's summer-movie blockbuster HANCOCK (2008), was a Navy enthusiast ever since he was a child (his father happened to be a Marine who used to bring to Naval Museum). Like Michael Bay (who also a huge fan of military force), Berg displays a labor of love for showcasing every piece of military hardware found in the U.S. Navy. He certainly apes a lot of Michael Bay-like filmmaking style, right down the way how the story is told (which is ironically BATTLESHIP follows the similar template of TRANSFORMERS trilogy). Not surprisingly, Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber's screenplay is nothing than a series of cliches mashed altogether into a bloated piece of effort. The first half of the movie, which established some of the key characters, are especially juvenile and cringeworthy at best.
The dialogues are terrible and the cast are strictly one-dimensional caricatures. Taylor Kitsch, who had earlier headlined the $250 million-mega flop JOHN CARTER, is lackluster. His acting performance remains as wooden as always, and frankly, he's still a mile away to establish himself as a leading action-star status worth to be invested in a big-budget tentpole movie like BATTLESHIP. The rest of the supporting actors are equally underwritten -- Alexander Skarsgard is wasted as the well-disciplined brother Stone whose character is sadly killed off earlier in the movie, while Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker appears nothing more than just looking sexy in skimpy clothes. Popular singer Rihanna, who made her big screen debut, may look appropriately tough in a naval outfit with brash attitude but her lackluster acting leaves little to be desired for. The only worthwhile cast here is Liam Neeson, who commands his role as the no-nonsense Admiral Shane. Too bad he appears more of an extended cameo appearance.
Fortunately, on the technical level, BATTLESHIP delivers enough guilty pleasure in this pre-summer movie blockbuster. Courtesy of ILM (Industrial Light & Magic), the special effects here are top-notch and Berg knows well how to make full use of the hefty $200 million budget for loads of effects-heavy action sequences to maximum impact. For an astonishing two-hour plus, viewers who fancies lots of pyrotechnics will indeed have their money's worth here. The "flying yo-yo" weapons of the aliens are a must-see, especially during the early destruction of the naval base and the crowded highway overpass in the city. Some of the combat scenes on the sea, especially during the final scene where the obsolete model of U.S.S. Missouri is used to destroy the alien ship, are visually engaging to watch for. If that's not enough, Berg even have time to pay homage to the classic board game where Capt. Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) and Alex Hopper uses grid-like strategy to engage their enemies.
By the way, do remember to stay on until the after-credit sequence because there is a short footage which opens up a possible sequel in the future.