Smash, Bang, Whoosh, Crash, Splash, Kerpow!
It doesn't take a Magic 8 Ball to realize a mysterious object with a Monopoly on the high seas Speaks and Spells Trouble for the US Navy. Though this Twister of an epic action adventure is no Candy Land, Battleship Slips and Slides into Risk with Operation high-tech Chutes and Ladders and will have you screaming Yahtzee!
Okay, I couldn't help myself with the puns, especially given that IMDBpro reports that Adam Sandler is developing a film based on Hasbro's game "Candy Land." Who knew our childhood board games would be the new hot intellectual properties? Of course Sandler will be watching Battleship's box office this weekend -- a bad open for Battleship could lead the "Candy Land" movie into the molasses swamp.
But Battleship delivers on superior spectacle and clearly defined characters, making the stakes of Titanic seem puny compared to the entire planet being at risk. A few extra life rafts won't get the captain out of this jam.
Set in Hawaii, the story takes a while to get going, but the heavy rock soundtrack (there's that Black Keys song again!) helps to keep the character/story set-ups rolling. Once the aliens from Planet G arrive, it's full speed ahead.
Alien movies usually present their little green men in the sky. This may be one of the only movies that finds them in the water, making for "Unidentified Floating Objects."
Called "The Regents," the aliens are surprisingly simian, two arms, two legs, walking upright, but somehow a lot more Terminator.
Liam Neeson plays Admiral Shane, perfectly terse and seasoned. Rihanna makes her film-acting debut and delivers a watchable performance as Petty Officer Raikes, a bad-ass weapons specialist. Her best line: "Mahalo, mother-f***ers!"
Taylor Kitsch as Lt. Hopper is much more than watchable, he's a dreamboat, in fact. This role is a much better use of his talents than the title role in John Carter. Brooklyn Decker plays his fiancée Sam Shane (yes, Admiral Shane's daughter), a physical therapist who gets suck on a Hawaiian mountain top when the invasion begins. True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård plays Commander Stone Hopper who could easily convince me to sail away with him (but I miss the fangs).
Hamish Linklater keeps the film afloat with his neurotic wit as the space researcher Cal Zapata. Curiosity kills the cat however when it turns out someone "out there" really was listening to the beacon that was sent into space several years prior. D'oh! Now it will take an entire fleet of destroyers to combat the aliens, who are invading earth to... well, we're not quite sure why they're here, but it can't be good.
NASA and the Pentagon are zero help, of course, and seem to be embracing this "extinction level event." But when the Navy begins using tsunami buoys to track water displacement on a computer screen, the visuals harken back to the old board game especially, as they call out coordinates, "Romeo 6" and "Whiskey 25."
When the Navy's destroyer is destroyed by the aliens, their one shot left is manning the floating museum that is the 70-year-old Battleship. But the young-guns don't know how to operate a steam-powerd ship, so it's up to the old guys -- yes, the often forgotten about Navy veterans, who help save the day -- a nice touch. Adding AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" keeps it rocking' old-school-style.
"They ain't gonna sink this battleship, no way!" declares one of the vets, giving us the closest proximity to the famous line from the TV commercial.
So what will it take to defeat these space invaders? Nuclear war heads? Stealth bombers? Those Navy SEALS who killed Bin Laden? How about… sunlight? And a hell of of lot of courage?
Bottom line: Though a wee bit long at 2 hours and 11 minutes, the filmmakers did an excellent job at bringing this boring old board game into the CGI-tastic 21st Century. No doubt the boys in your life will want to sink this Battleship!
Photo credit: Universal Pictures