When it was announced that Disney had greenlit the first Pirates of the Caribbean, a big-budget feature film based on their beloved water ride, they were scoffed at. With the casting of Johnny Depp, the direction of Gore Verbinski, three sequels, and $3.7 billion dollars worldwide later, Disney surely proved us all wrong. While the law of diminishing returns has sorely taken its toll upon Jack Sparrow & Co. we turned up our noses even higher upon the announcement of Hasbro’s Battleship sailing our way. What the hell could they possibly have come up with in the story department to broaden a board game based around what was originally a pad-and-pencil guessing game? Putting it simply, not much.
While Clue has proven itself to be a cult classic, at least that game has a plot. Who killed whom in what room and with what weapon? It lent itself to all kinds of shenanigans with an all star cast and Jonathan Lynn at the helm. The fact that a film adaptation of the 1943 Milton Bradley game exists still boggles the mind. That it has already grossed $215 million overseas before its release stateside would be an even bigger head scratcher if Hollywood wasn’t currently depending on those numbers so much lately. What we have here simply winds up being the love child of a cinematic threeway consisting of Armageddon, Independence Day, and Titanic. Apparently, director Peter Berg, along with writers Erich and Jon Hoeber, love ’90s action movies.
What little plot there is here revolves around Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter) being forced into joining the Navy by his older brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård). Stone is tired of Alex wasting his life, particularly after a drunken Pink Panther-esque caper to get the girl of his dreams, Sam (Brooklyn Decker), a chicken burrito, leading him to be double tasered by police. Now, Alex is under the scrutiny of Sam’s father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), and all Alex wants to do is ask Shane for his daughter’s hand in marriage. But on this day, Alex and everyone else will face impending doom as an alien race from the Planet G decides to pay us a visit to answer a call we placed to see if life really does exist on the one planet we’ve discovered could sustain life outside of Earth. And now, it’s up to the Navy to save the human race (and the shores of Hawaii) from extinction.
While some ladies may find Kitsch to be quite an example of “eyecandy,” he certainly isn’t helping his reputation in the acting department. Even though I’m sure that has nothing to do with him getting this gig. Director Berg brought us the film adaptation of H. G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights novel that spun off the TV show from which Kitsch is now being forced upon us as a supposedly bright and shining star. He’s still got a long way to go however, and needs to learn how to show any kind of skill besides glowering through his lines. He didn’t bother me too much here, but he’s even more of a black hole of emotion than anyone could have possibly complained about as the titular John Carter.
And while there’s been lots of coverage when Rihanna was cast in the film, she may look like she’s having a ball, yet she’s given the least to do out of anyone in the cast. At least Liam Neeson can score a deserved laugh here or there. So if you’re just looking to shut off your brain, look no further as Battleship seems to be trying its damnedest to keep the benchmark alive and well that is the big dumb fun of summer. Unfortunately, it’s far dumber than it is fun. But I guess if you’re already looking forward to it, and have somehow had your fill of the year’s only full-rounded success (The Avengers), then Battleship is prepped and ready to sink your braincells.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures