Aliens arrive and go BOOM in “Battleship”

What does the movie “Battleship” have to do with the ever popular
board game, other than attaching the game’s maker Hasbro to the film?
Not much, really. The game itself is a masterpiece of simplicity,
putting pegs into a grid with holes in it to determine where your
opponent has deployed a fleet of five war ships. In the
non-electronic version of the game, one had to rely on the integrity
of the opponent to honestly declare hits or misses.

The closest “Battleship” comes to this concept is the sequence
wherein the war ships, unable to use radar, employ buoys to detect
where the foe is lurking, thus gaining a strategic advantage.

So, in order to expand this one-dimensional game into a full-blown,
noisy summer movie, screenwriters Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber, who
brought us the enormously enjoyable “Red,” concocted yet another
hostile aliens yarn. It appears the Spielberg-esque era of
cute-friendly visitors from outer space is over.

The Hoeber boys throw the usual aliens-visit-Earth elements into the
pot:

1) Earth decides to beam signals into outer space, hoping to contact
some planet with similar environments or life forms (see: “Contact”
and “Starman”)

2) The response turns out to be not so friendly (see the Big Daddy
of alien invasion movies “Independence Day”)

3) Spearheading the seemingly overwhelmed counterattack of the
Earthlings is the reluctant/unlikely hero, usually an underachiever
thrown into the role of Earth-saver (recall Jeff Goldblum’s David and
Randy Quaid’s Russell Casse who join an eager hero, Will Smith’s
Capt. Steven Hiller, in “Independence Day”)

4) Have adversaries toss aside their differences and band together
to save the planet and in the meantime develop respect and
friendship.

5) An odd assortment of other heroes step up to provide integral
parts of Earth’s desperate but ultimately successful effort to
survive.

The opening moments of “Battleship” introduce the viewers to the
hero, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, at first looking like he just
stepped off the set of “John Carter,” his earlier mostly unseen
starring role). Hopper is celebrating his birthday in a bar with his
older brother, Naval Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard),
who tries to motivate Alex into using his vast potential and making
something of his life. Instead, Alex focuses his energy on trying to
impress a beautiful woman, Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker). She’s
craving a chicken burrito but the bar kitchen is closed. So Alex, in
a scene right out of TRU TV’s “The Smoking Gun Presents the World’s
Dumbest Criminals,” breaks into a convenience store, to messy
results. Oh, he gets the burrito — and the girl. And he gets tazed.
He also finds himself in the Navy, thanks to big brother Stone
trying to change Alex’s wayward course in life, and in another
complication, Samantha is the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam
Neeson), who obviously believes no man is suitable for his daughter,
and especially not this misfit Alex Hopper.

Meanwhile, in the techno-geek sector, to great fanfare, signals are
being transmitted deep into space, directed to a planet that seems to
have similar characteristics of Earth. It is called Planet G.

Well, Planet G must stand for Planet Grumpy, because inhabitants of
this planet drop in, and without so much as a respectful bow, begin
wreaking havoc. They set up shop initially in the Pacific Ocean near
Hawaii, where the Earth transmissions are jettisoned to a satellite that
then slingshots the signals into the cosmos hinterlands. Nearby,
several nations are engaged in naval war games, where Admiral Shane,
Commander Hopper and Lt. Alex Hopper find themselves suddenly in a
this-is-not-a-drill situation.

At this point the special effects take over, with powerful artillery
being exchanged, and ships — both Earthly and alien — and other
things blowing up.

To no surprise the task of saving the world falls on the shoulders
of Alex. He does, however, get some ample support from Rihanna as
Petty Officer Cora Raikes — she sounds good when she says “boom”
as explosives hit their targets; Jesse Plemons, in the role that
Phillip Seymour Hoffman used to assume, as Seaman Jimmy Ord, the
milk-cheeked young man who comes up with a vital observation on a
possible alien weakness; Hamish Linklater as the nerdy transmission
specialist Cal Zapata; and notably Gregory D. Gadson , a real life
Iraq war hero who lost his legs while serving in the Middle East as Mick
Canales, playing a war vet who, with Samantha, has to fend off aliens near
the transmission towers on Oahu.

In addition to Gadson, a shout out also is given to several Navy
veterans, who despite their age turn out to be instrumental in the
final confrontation between humans and aliens.

This is vintage summer movie stuff. If there is significant value
here, it is for the benefit of the aliens: Think twice before you
come to Earth spoiling for a fight. Those Earthlings get a little
testy when visitors from outer space start blowing things up.

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