'Battleship' more like 'Transformers' than Hasbro's game

May 16, 2012 

Officially, Battleship is based on the popular Hasbro game. It’s hard to see how.

Transformers might be a better model. Only Battleship can claim a better plot than the 1990s animated TV series turned movie cash cow.

In this case, however, “better” is a relative term.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

The U.S. beams a message into space at an Earth-size planet. Never mind that it is hundreds or maybe thousands of light years away and that message will take about that amount to time to get there.

Anyway, Aliens glom onto the signal. Of course, they’re not friendly. Transformer-like ships with shape-changing whirs and clunks just “happen” to land in the Pacific about 120 miles from where an admiral played by Liam Neeson is leading multi-nation war games.

A barely seen Neeson provides the only real “star” power. Much of the focus is on John Carter’s Taylor Kitsch, a loose cannon and lovable loser Lieutenant Alex Hopper. He inevitably does the wrong thing at the wrong time and is always in trouble with somebody. In this case, the admiral. Hopper is in love with Brooklyn Decker, who plays his commander’s gorgeous daughter. Marriage is on his mind, but he manages to piss the admiral off to the point he’s afraid to ask him for her hand.

If only that was his only crisis.

Knee-jerk reaction to an early alien defensive maneuver lands three ships on the wrong side of a defensive shield put up by the invaders in even deeper trouble. Sailors die. It’s Hopper’s fault.

Technologically superior in every way, the aliens do expected major butt-kicking. Hopper and crew win some and lose some, and final victory involves a nice tribute to World War II naval veterans — many of whom are used in the final scenes. Memorial Day weekend is coming, so this fits. Some in the screening crowd clapped when the veterans showed up on the screen.

I did.

The real stars of the picture are directer Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) and writers Erich and Jon Hoeber (Red). Once they get the story going, the two writers and their director pack it with decent, sometimes even believable characters and give Kitsch, Decker and Neeson and their co-stars nonstop and very good action sequences enhanced by excellent CGI effects. Berg milks them to the max.

If this is your thing. Go. Definitely. And have fun.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Directed by Peter Berg
Stars: Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rhianna, Brooklyn Decker

Rated PG-13 for violent images and mature themes. It is playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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