Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a B movie. There is no danger of an Academy Award in Battleship’s future. Taken for all that, it’s genuinely entertaining and not nearly as mind-numbing as Michael Bay’s tripe. The fact that the writers and director are able to make a decent movie out of the board game Battleship ought to be an award unto itself. More than that, they somehow shoehorned elements of the board game into the plot without making it seem completely ludicrous. If someone never played the game and knew nothing of it, they would probably never realize it within the movie.
The gist of the plot is that mankind sends a signal to a nearby star system where an Earth-like planet is discovered. The aliens respond with an invasion (naturally.) Five ships are ‘warping’ (or whatever FTL hand wave you want to use) towards Earth when their communications ship collides with a satellite. That ship crashes into Hong Kong while the other four land in the Pacific. Three destroyers on a joint training mission investigate the ships.
Onboard the destroyers are two main characters–Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano). Alex is every cliche of the ‘wild maverick’. He only joined the Navy because his brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) got him a deal to stay out of jail. The offending incident occurred when Alex tried a stupid stunt to impress Sam Shane (Brooklyn Decker) and destroyed a convenience store. Sam is the daughter of U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Terrance Shane (Liam Neeson). Liam, by the way, is completely wasted in this movie. He phoned in this role and kept checking to make sure his check cleared.
A force field is projected from the mothership, keeping out the rest of the Pacific Fleet. The destroyers engage the alien ships and two of them are destroyed. Stone is killed and Alex fulfills the Young Action Hero stereotype by acting stupidly. Despite that, the lone destroyer escapes annihilation and plays a cat and mouse game with the aliens after sundown. Unable to find them on radar, they use NOAA tsunami buoys to track them. This is where they shoehorn the game elements, as the destroyer must fire its missiles blind, hoping for a hit. It’s actually not as stupid as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Sam is (coincidentally) accompanying a veteran double amputee named Mick Canales (Gregory D. Gadson) into the Hawaiian mountains. Where (coincidentally) they run into a communications station invaded by aliens. Coincidentally (nod, nod, wink, wink.) They discover that they have to take out the aliens before they use the communications station to call for reinforcements.
The last destroyer sinks while destroying the final alien ship, only leaving the mothership. Without a vessel, the survivors commandeer the USS Missouri (‘Mighty Mo’) battleship at Pearl Harbor. The ship is essentially a tourist attraction and the destroyer crew isn’t familiar enough with the old ship to pilot it. Fortunately, several WW2 veterans of the Missouri are onboard for a celebration and help them pilot the Mo. What follows is easily the best part of the movie, when they fire up the Missouri and engage the mothership.
This all sounds cheesy. It is cheesy–but in a good way. The movie uses real veterans like Gregory D. Gadson and the Mighty Mo vets. Any movie that shows the level of love towards vets that this one does has a warm spot in my heart.
I won’t reveal much more, since I want you to watch this movie and give it a chance. It’s got heart, even if the brains are a little haphazard.