“Battleship” Torpedoes Itself

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

In the summer of 2007, Hasbro divulged its new relationship with Hollywood through the unveiling of “Transformers,” a live-action version of the Takara-derived toy line and 1980s American animated series of the same name. Following that film’s success at the box office, Hasbro strengthened its presence by producing “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” both of which surpassed their predecessor’s winnings many times over. Next came “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” another adherence to a popular brand from the multinational toy and board game company. The follow-up, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” will be appearing in multiplexes this year. With “Battleship” making its big screen debut, Hasbro’s influence is becoming more and more solidified with each purchase of an admission ticket.

What Hasbro fails to realize, however, is that as profitable as its Hollywood ventures are, few of their films have anything worth remembering. With the exception of the first installment of the “Transformers” franchise, one hardly hears long-lasting positive feedback regarding Hasbro’s films. In fact, it would be inaccurate to describe whatever the company creates for the movie theaters as a “film”; the more appropriate term would have to be “product” instead.

Many know that a product is something manufactured by the industry for the sole purpose of making money. Such a means-to-an-end description suits “Battleship” well — perhaps too well.

The basic premise of this product reads thusly: a fleet of human warships fights an extraterrestrial race in the Pacific Ocean while struggling to discover the purpose of the invasion by Earth’s visitors. Beyond that, there is nothing more to say. While the notion of high concept is crucial to the creation of a blockbuster, this one feels too sparse to suffice. It’s a pity the studio executives responsible for this product did not perceive it that way.

Director Peter Berg claims that he wanted to take the classic naval board game and turn it into a summer popcorn movie. Unfortunately, he cannot comprehend the basic guidelines of making his goal for “Battleship” come through. Even something designed to be fun needs to have depth, clarity and finesse to succeed in carrying out its purpose. Without those attributes, what is intended to be well-made entertainment becomes an incomprehensible wreck.

The entire product consists of one mess being hurled after another, resulting in the audience not being able to grasp what is happening. No matter how hard the characters try to explain everything, there is just too much chaos to listen to them. Even the action sequences must be called into question, for their excessive noise and flashy kinetic energy are more than enough to assault a human’s basic senses into oblivion. The aliens are nowhere near the likes of truly intimidating enemies such as the Xenomorph or the Predator; the audience does not even get to learn about their motivations.

One does not need to score high on a standardized test to know that the cast of Hasbro’s latest Hollywood product is no better. Taylor Kitsch once again takes the lead in a blockbuster project, yet the only achievement worth noting is his wooden, lackadaisical delivery of whomever he’s playing. If he intends to establish a film career of his own, he is going to need to polish his skills as an actor. Alexander Skarsgård, who portrays Kitsch’s brother, should have been the protagonist; his acting chops clearly knock the likes of Kitsch down several notches. Tadanobu Asano’s character’s display of adaptive thinking becomes overshadowed by Kitsch’s role, and Liam Neeson is not given the attention that an experienced actor such as himself deserves.

The two female characters do not fare much better either. Why, might someone ask, is Bajan singer Rihanna here in the first place? If she is under the impression that singing is similar to acting, then she is sorely mistaken. Brooklyn Decker exemplifies Hasbro’s tradition of selecting models as the main character’s love interest: she is only in this product for aesthetic reasons.

Anybody keen on seeing “Battleship” might want to think twice before making a decision. Why? The answer is simple: this vessel is too poorly constructed to survive the marine waters, meaning that it will likely run aground, capsize or sink to the bottom of the ocean. Prepare to abandon ship.

Rating: 1 out of 5