Battleship Review: How Product Integration Should Be Done
I am almost prepared to call the makers of the new film Battleship brilliant. And I say almost because, as enjoyable Battleship is, its proximity to The Avengers cannot be overlooked. The Avengers destined this undeniably entertaining film to a shaky start that it in no way deserved. And that’s a shame. Aside from being one of the best alien movies since Independence Day, as well as the way to do a product integration film, Battleship is a high-energy film that smartly nods to a beloved childhood game while also paying homage to the everyday heroes.
Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Alex Hopper, a carefree scoundrel and general bit of misguided youth who’s living off the tab of his brother, decorated Naval Officer Stone Hopper (played by the ever dynamic Alexander Skarsgard). Unlike his responsible and accomplished older brother, Alex thinks nothing of a little breaking and entering as well as destruction of property in order to impress a girl who he only knows as “I’m Hungry.” That’s not her given name, but it’s only after he’s been tazed by the cops that Alex learns that Hungry is actually Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), the daughter of Stone’s commanding officer. Fed up with his brother’s reckless ways, Stone enrolls his brother into the U.S. Navy. What starts out as a character building experience turns into a battle to save the earth as Alex finds himself outnumbered and outgunned at the forefront.
Battleship is by far an action film no matter the sudsy drama crap they try to couch it in; there are special effects, dedicated actors, and enough twists to keep it interesting. This is where the movie really excels: the chase scenes, the cat and mouse games are really what keep this movie afloat for the majority of the time. In fact, you really don’t need to see the first ten minutes or the last three. I think with a little trimming Battleship would be an even better film. Namely, there’s this overriding theme of Alex trying to impress his girlfriend’s father (played by Liam Neeson) that’s not even necessary considering that outside of the action neither Alex nor Samantha are that much of a character. This storyline drags the film down and makes it longer than it needs to be. You don’t always need a love story and I think that if this movie tried to do a little less, it would have been so much more.
The genius in Battleship is that it doesn’t really tote the movie as being a kick-off from the game. Quite the contrary, the movie unfolds in a nice and subtle way as the war field is laid out for you and then it’s like, “Oh, snap. Battleship!” There’s a fun little moment in there when Alex and Captain Nagata, commanding officer in the Japanese Navy, go classic board game to attack the aliens. This is a short-lived though crucial part to the storyline that was well handled by the production. Not to mention the famed words spoken in the film as it has been thousands of times in real life ‘They ain’t sinking this battleship!’
I also have to give it up for Battleship in its representation of the Armed Forces, especially the Navy. The film did a great job in showing the brotherhood, sacrifice, and strength that I imagine the Forces are all about. The film strikes an emotional chord by showing the character of these individuals through who they are as soldiers, and the courtesy and respect shown here is well done. Going a step further, the production of Battleship employed many real-life veterans and active-duty soldiers as extras and even one featured role, Gregory Gadson as Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales. When a movie aspires to lift more than its own image, that’s something to take note of and so Battleship’s salute to the troops is an awesome thing.
There are, of course, a few eye-roll worthy moments to be had here. Pre-Navy, Alex is a bit of a pill and even throughout the film shows glimmers of that irritating side. Luckily for us, the majority of the movie is action based, allowing Alex’s personal failings to sit on the sidelines.
I hesitate to say it, but the principal cast of Battleship isn’t really much to be excited about. No one fails here, but there are few standouts. Taylor Kitsch is alright as Alex, aside from the approximately 10% of the movie where he is just plain sappy. But then again, love makes fools of us all. Alexander Skarsgard continues to convince me that he can do no wrong, and I’m prepared to go the rest of my life believing this. Brooklyn Decker is a pretty girl who’s in movies without exhibiting emotional depth, and I’ve never been on the Liam Neeson bandwagon so I guess he was alright. Rihanna manages to keep up, doing better than some other first time actors who hail from the music world. I loved Gadson’s Mick, as well as Tadanobu Asano’s Captain Nagata and Jesse Plemons as Seaman Jimmy Ord. Looking back, the persons with what may seem the ‘smaller roles’ were the most interesting.
Overall, Battleship is a smartly done film that beautifully salutes the heroes of our military while giving a nod to one of America’s favorite game. If you’re not still hopped up on The Avengers, and even if you are, you should definitely go see it.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.