Review in a Hurry: With a roster of hotties—Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, and Rihanna—versus ginormous space crafts, Battleship is an alien invasion flick with too earnest dialogue and ear-splitting explosions. Yet, everything works: the special effects, the performances, the breakneck pace.
Score! A direct hit!
The Bigger Picture: Nerdy scientists have sent a signal to the newly discovered Planet G. The message is received by gun-toting aliens and soon enough, ships from outer space arrive for a sneak attack. Two jock brothers will make a stand for Team Earth. Commander Stone (Skarsgård) the golden boy and top gun Maverick Alex (Kitsch, a sturdy leading man) in need of an attitude adjustment.
Each will command a battleship. Meanwhile, Alex's sexy fiancée Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), a military physical therapist, is trekking the mountains with a tough as nails paraplegic played by real-life Iraq hero Gregory D. Gadson, a bilateral above-the-knee amputee making a strong debut. Their summit happens to be the destination for aliens who need to phone home—for reinforcements.
The board is set. The pieces are in place.
Director Peter Berg (Hancock) employs nearly all of the tricks of Transformers director Michael Bay: each shot is bathed in a warm glow. Every performance is paired down to just a few expressions, like Rihanna doing her best Michelle Rodriguez-inspired sneer.
And thankfully the editing is mercifully coherent.
This is the kind of film that takes itself seriously so you don't have to. The testosterone is amped to 11. The commitment to '80s era jingoism usually sinks lesser films, but Berg knows if done just right everything will click. Think Pearl Harbor, but with aliens and way more fun.
The aliens are human-size Transformers with ever-shifting metal weapons and cooler arsenals like spikey spinning tires that annihilate everything awesomely.
The film's highlight is when Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), the captain of a Japanese naval destroyer, figures out how to seek and destroy the alien ships. Using old weather buoys, the sailors track enemy wave patterns on a grid that changes if something big moves in the water. The results are plenty of "B1!"s and "E32!"s. A clever execution of the classic game.
Thankfully, no one utters the phrase "you sank my battleship!"
The 180—a Second Opinion: Liam Neeson is here as Samantha's father, a decorated admiral. But the Taken star has nothing to do and honestly, looks kind of embarrassed that he showed up. Come on Liam! Loosen up!
(E! and Universal Pictures are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)