Plenty of entertaining blockbusters were inspired by sketchy source material.
“Pirates of the Caribbean” came from a Disney theme park ride. “Resident Evil” hailed from a popular video game. Even “Real Steel” was arguably prompted by the Mattel toy Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots.
However, “Battleship” proves that sometimes a dumb idea for a movie just results in a really dumb movie.
The popular Hasbro board game launched in 1967 gets converted into a $200 million blockbuster aimed at those who think “Transformers” is too subtle or brainy. This is lowbrow filmmaking on a Hollywood scale, brimming with absurd characters, seen-it-before plot points and leaps in logic that even John Carter couldn’t hurdle.
Speaking of John Carter actor Taylor Kitsch takes on the leading role, proving he has officially replaced Sam Worthington as the generic hero du jour. Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a surf-and-sun screwup who somehow ends up a naval lieutenant, mainly due to the belittling guidance of his older brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård).
Alex is dating the lifelike blond Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), who was so impressed with his commitment to foraging for a chicken burrito for her that she didn’t mind that it got him arrested. She also happens to be the daughter of the always-shouting Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), who’s not so smitten with her choice of suitor.
While these officers are occupied by naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii, a cluster of objects from the distant Planet-G crashes into the ocean. In “Halo”-esque combat gear and wave-hopping crafts, the aliens seal off the islands with an impenetrable force field. Only one destroyer (thankfully, not a patrol boat) is left within the zone to challenge the invaders.
Looks like a job for the Avengers. But instead it’s up to Alex — once he learns a little humility, of course — to take command of the ship and save the day. And he’s aided by singer Rihanna!
Saluting both the American flag and filmmaker Michael Bay, “Battleship” rises to new heights of pandering while Erich and Jon Hoeber’s screenplay sinks to depths of dopiness. (Alex tells a fellow sailor upon seeing the aliens, “I got a bad feeling about this. Like we’re-gonna-need-a-new-planet kind of bad feeling.”)
The sci-fi adventure is all set to rousing, inappropriate singles by bands such as AC/DC and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Note to the producers: You might want to read the lyrics to CCR’s anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son” because you obviously don’t understand the song.
Just when the hardware-happy antics of this 131-minute epic start getting too predictable, director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) plunges into the deep end of cinematic insanity. Alex is forced to enlist retired World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War vets to help him run the USS Missouri in order to confront the enemy.
Never mind the fact the vessel has remained a moored museum piece since the ’90s and would probably not be carrying a full cache of live shells. But this helps instigate a faux patriotic climax featuring more extraterrestrial whupping than “Battle Los Angeles” and “The Darkest Hour” combined.
Early on Alex describes this decommissioned battleship as being “designed to take hits, like a floating punching bag.”
That also characterizes “Battleship.” It possesses all the ingredients to be a future camp classic. It’s a movie best paired with cheap beer, chicken burritos and friends hurling insults at the screen.