Battleship (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

battleship 75So, how does a Hollywood studio adapt a two-person game of patience and cunning into a feature film? With aliens, of course.

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It is difficult to accurately describe the complete mess that is Battleship, a ludicrous, asinine, big-budget blockbuster based on Hasbro’s game of strategic competition. The day Hollywood studios stop producing mindless popcorn movies that offer not a hint of intelligence is clearly a long way off, even though Joss Whedon’s brilliant film The Avengers (as well as Christopher Nolan’s last three films) demonstrates that movies can make a lot of money at the box office without appealing exclusively to those moviegoers ranked in the lowest IQ percentile.

Even though Peter Berg is credited as director of the film, that label should have bold quote marks around it, since Hasbro is clearly the entity calling all the shots, inserting references to the board game in the most absurd ways possible. Berg, who has shown his talent as a capable, if unimaginative, filmmaker with works like Friday Night Lights and Hancock, should be ashamed of himself for not running as fast as possible from this catastrophe.

So, how does a Hollywood studio adapt a two-person game of patience and cunning into a feature film? With aliens, of course. In the movie, an alien race descends upon Earth after we arrogantly blast a signal to a recently discovered planet outside our solar system. Upon their arrival, the aliens trap several Navy ships inside a force field during a series of war games with the Japanese. The sailors, led by Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), must fight to stay alive while the rest of the Navy looks on helplessly.

The aliens want something, though it’s not clear what that something is. They don’t want to hurt humans, unless that human is on a ship that must be blown up, or unfortunate enough to be in their car when a gigantic, spinning buzz saw rips through a highway. The aliens apparently need our communications technology, but instead of just going directly to the source of the signal (their ostensible motivation), they trap half their fleet of spaceships within a confined area with what they assume is an underprepared enemy, not realizing there are Americans on those ships—and Americans can kick anyone’s ass, no matter what planet they come from.

While the aliens’ inevitable Achilles heel isn’t half as ridiculous as the ones in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, it is without imagination, to say the least. Berg, like so many filmmakers before him, fails to understand the much more frightening reaction aliens can produce when one doesn’t spend two hours staring at them. The more we are shown of the aliens, the more time we have to pick apart their design and believability. Had we been given only glimpses of their physical appearance or very brief images of their bodies (see: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day), the story’s stakes would be much higher, since we wouldn’t know the alien beings look like a cross between a horse and a lump of Silly Putty.

The only thing more hilarious than the pathetic script from Erich and Jon Hoeber, which overflows with stupid dialogue, are the wooden performances from the unfortunate actors tasked with delivering such awful drivel. Even Liam Neeson, a normally terrific actor, is unable to make his lines sound like anything more sophisticated than a third grader giving a report on what he did over summer vacation.

Battleship is long, boring, insultingly dumb, and proof that Hollywood has essentially given up on its audience. | Matthew Newlin

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