'Battleship' is act of violence against your intelligence

May 27, 2012
Universal Pictures' "Battleship" is not a film that stretches any mental muscles.

When it was announced that there would be a feature-length film based on the classic board game "Battleship," I had no idea just how faithful the filmmakers would be.

"Battleship" not only features a number of giant armed warships like its Hasbro namesake, but it's also just as flat, plastic and full of holes as the actual game itself.

Peter Berg serves as a director in what I can only assume is an attempt at some sort of action-film parody that was too subversive for me to fully understand. For Berg is a filmmaker of some intelligence ("The Rundown," "Friday Night Lights"), and for the life of me, I cannot fathom how he would slap his name on something this purposefully, willfully brainless, empty and substantively deficient on every level.

In fact, the film is no mere insult to your intelligence; it's more of an act of violence against it.

Since the game "Battleship" is merely a long stretch of time in which opponents yell out coordinates to each other until a ship sinks, the film version has been packed with more stuffing than a Stove Top factory.

Alex Hopper (played by beef slab Taylor Kitch) is an impulsive rebel who breaks the law for a sun-kissed blondie (played by moving mannequin Brooklyn Decker) whose ample cleavage should have received a "Special thanks to..." listing in the credits. In the very next scene (faster than you can say "Top Gun,"), Alex is right where we want to see all our impulsive, rebellious felons: in the military.

Since this is a screenplay that does not want to stretch anyone's mental muscles beyond coloring-book comprehension, blondie's pop happens to be admiral of the same fleet to which Alex is assigned. The admiral is played by Liam Neeson, who must pad his pillowcase with money received from films such as this. He, of course, rejects the notion of Alex and his daughter, but the filmmakers must have decided that this storyline might get in the way of all the 'sploshions, so Neeson's character is absent for the majority of the picture.

His absence in the film is replaced by "Predators"... oh, sorry, alien invaders, as I think that noun - used in cinematic references - is actually owned by 20th Century Fox, but you'd be hard pressed to tell much difference. They have apparently come to Earth to save screenwriters from having to actually devise a plot that would require skill, ingenuity or thought.

The entire film feels as though it was written by a group of guys who grew up thinking "Armageddon," "Con Air" and "Transformers" were the apex of cinematic action films. And while it should be noted that "Battleship" is perhaps the best of the films in the Hasbro library (which includes the three "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" films), that is like saying Louisville Slugger is by far the best bat to get hit in the crotch with.

As the film builds to its deafening conclusion, we are merely beaten into a state of disengaged submission, and we long for the quiet strategy of yelling out "A7!" to replace this insipid, joyless bored game.

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