Battleship (2012): Peter Berg’s Special-Effects Action-Adventure

The plot of Battleship, Peter Berg’s special-effects driven action-adventure, is as generic and bland as the title of the feature suggests.

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As directed by Berg, “Battleship” is underwhelmingly written and overwhelmingly produced, resulting in a silly extravaganza that sets new standards for escapist summer popcorn entertainment.

“Battleship” has already opened in some foreign markets, and it remains to be seen how well the picture will do in the U.S., when it’s released May 15, considering the huge competition from “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which broke all records in its first weekend (May 4-6), and Tim Burton Johnny Depp’s starrer, “Dark Shadows.” opening May 11

Michael Bay, the creator of the “Transformers” franchise, must be flattered and elated as “Battleship” is a rip-off of his popular series of pictures. The dialogue in Berg’s wannabe epic is so silly, and often risibly banal, that by comparison and inadvertently, it elevates the status of Bay’s pictures.

We don’t expect a big-budget CGI-dominated summer movie, inspired by Hasbro’s popular naval-combat game, to be deep in ideas, smart in dialogue, and emotionally touching—just to be entertaining enough for us to remain engaged for the duration.

Speaking of duration: Was there any reason to make this picture also epic in running time: “Battleship” overextends its welcome by half an hour or so.

In terms of moviemaking, “Battleship” represents a step down for Peter Berg, who had previously made “Friday Night Lives,” “Hancock,” and “The Kingdom”—his movie gets progressively bigger, more expensive, and less uninvolving on any level. No space or planet is spared in Berg’s epos, which depicts our planet’s struggle to survive the lands, the seas, and the skies (did I leave locale any out?)

Ditto for actor Taylor Kitsch, whose dubious career has gone from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to “John Carter,” which was an artistic and commercial flop, and now “Battleship.”

A tale of two brothers: Kitsch, playing Lieutenant Alex Hopper, a naval weapons officer assigned to USS “John Paul Jones,” is contrasted with Alexander Skarsgard ( agood actor who deserves better material than what he gets), cast as Stone, Hopper’s older brother and Commanding Officer of USS Sampson.

As their female partners, Berg has cast the music star Rihanna as Officer Second Class Cora Raikes, Hopper’s crewmate and a weapons specialist on USS “John Paul Jones.” Making her screen debut, Rihanna looks gorgeous, in and out of uniform, but it’s hard to tell whether she can act, considering the ridiculous lines she is given to deliver.

The other major femme is Sam Shane (Petty Brooklyn Decker), cast as Hopper’s fiancée and a physical therapist, who specializes in rehabilitating vets of military combat.

The filmmaker proudly state that “Battleship” was largely shot on location in Hawaii’s Honolulu, and that it had received support from the U.S. Navy throughout the production process. Reportedly, the Navy allowed the crew to visit several Arleigh Burke-class destroyers while in Pearl Harbor—USS Hopper (DDG 70) as well as USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), which are ported in Hawaii. The team also shot on the Battleship Missouri Memorial (BB-63), the site of the 1945 Japanese surrender to Allied forces, which marked the end of World War II.

But what “Battleship” needed desperately is a more serviceable, less cliché-ridden scenario.

For those who care about the film’s origins. A global brand, enjoyed for 40 years in numerous countries, the game play is known as “Battleship,” or “Naval Battles.” In 1984, when Hasbro purchased the Milton Bradley Company, it inherited global-brand-name toys and games, including “Battleship.” As one of the world’s biggest toy manufacturers, Hasbro has gone out of its way trying to “translate” its popular brands into commercial Hollywood movies, but so far with little success.

Unfortunately, the Hasbro game lack of narrative structure, which presents potential for imaginative writers and directors, turned out to be a minus for this big-screen rendition: “Battleship” still feels and looks like a video game—just a very big, very long, and very noisy one.