Battleship | Movie review
Peter Berg sinks our fond childhood memories.
Remind us never to play Battleship with Peter Berg. We’re not sure he understands the rules. Milton Bradley’s naval-warfare board game—introduced in the ’60s and still a reliable cause of sibling rivalry—is supposedly the inspiration for this waterlogged event movie, about an extraterrestrial siege on Pearl Harbor. Yet beyond one reasonably rousing nighttime skirmish, in which a radar screen is reconfigured to resemble the famous pegged playing grid, Battleship never even attempts to capture the mano-a-mano, shot-in-the-dark suspense of the game. Berg guns instead for Transformers territory, slobbering over military hardware while his global-crisis narrative alternates metal-on-metal mayhem with Gomer Pyle–ish comic relief. Michael Bay should either sue for royalties or beam with pride.
There’s one nifty toy—the supercharged pinwheel of death that’s all over the trailers. It’s got more personality than most of its human costars, though Taylor Kitsch, as a fuck-up Navy recruit stepping in to lead the resistance, fares better here than he did in John Carter. Of course, you don’t go to a movie called Battleship expecting sharply defined characters. You go to see Liam Neeson—or Kitsch or Rihanna, or anyone, really—look out across the water and utter some variation on “You sunk my battleship!” Bafflingly, that moment never arrives. Instead we get two-plus hours of jingoistic sound and fury, capped by an end-credits crawl set, without irony, to CCR’s “Fortunate Son.” There’s another ’60s staple Berg apparently doesn’t understand.