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‘Battleship’ stays afloat in a sea of noise

Published: May 17, 2012 | 7:58 am
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A movie review of “Battleship,” director Peter Berg’s big, dumb summer blockbuster based on the popular board game that pits the U.S. Navy against rampaging space aliens. Ka-boom!

Let’s blow stuff up.

I’d say it’s a pretty good bet that was director Peter Berg’s prime directive to the cast and crew of “Battleship.”

Mission accomplished.

Ships, helicopters, cars, skyscrapers, people. See them all go boom. Or rather: BOOM!

You know those ear-protector headsets crew members wear on aircraft-carrier flight decks? Get some. The sound in this movie is turned up to 11 … million.

Whether it’s the shrieking of flying, flaming buzz saws from outer space or the roaring of big naval guns firing salvo after salvo or simply the blaring of the rock music on the soundtrack, “Battleship” uses sound to pound audience ears into submission.

“Battleship’s” plot is almost as simple as the board game from which it’s derived, and that game is simplicity defined: Try to guess the grid coordinates of an opponent’s warships and sink them, one grid square at a time.

To this elementary formula, Berg (“Hancock”) and the screenwriting brother team of Jon and Erich Hoeber (“Red”) have added evil aliens, whose superadvanced technology makes them invulnerable to our weapons. Until it doesn’t.

It’s the old “War of the Worlds”/”Battle Los Angeles”/”Cowboys & Aliens” scenario: They come blazing in from Way Out There with their megaships and their force fields and their far-out gizmos. Massive property damage ensues until us hapless Earthlings are pressed to the brink of doom. Then the hero exploits a tiny little glitch in the aliens’ technology, and Ba-Boom! Eat lead, you miserable Off-World Menace, you.

That hero is as much of a cliché as the aliens. Played by Taylor Kitsch (of “John Carter”), he’s a slacker and a screw-up when we first meet him, drunkenly trying to win over a blond beauty (Brooklyn Decker) with a stolen chicken burrito. (It’s complicated. It’s dumb.) She has a high tolerance for stupid, and they fall in love.

He joins the Navy (which gave massive technical assistance to the production). Turns out his sweetie is the daughter of an admiral (Liam Neeson) who thinks the lad has some good qualities but is an impulsive hothead, and no jerk like this will ever be allowed to win his daughter’s hand. And then dolt-boy suddenly becomes the last best hope of humanity in its fight with the aliens. (Complicated! Dumb!)

Ah, but it’s all kind of fun. Plus, Berg cleverly finds ways to give well-deserved cinematic shout-outs in major scenes to real-life wounded vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and to old salts who served aboard the USS Missouri.

Turn off your brain and enjoy. But don’t forget to cover your ears.


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