The two hot mines for movie property ideas these days seem to be comic books and the Hasbro toy manufacturer. Having given us the G.I. Joe and Transformers franchises from their toy line, they now turn to their board games. Battleship is a 200M dollar commercial for the game where two players bomb each other’s fleet deployment. The tie in to the CGI extravaganza is that there is a fleet deployment and there is a nod to the combination of luck and deductive reasoning that passes for strategy to track the alien fighters along a grid. And there’s a battleship, though we spend a good chunk of the movie waiting on the famous line from the commercial, “You sank my battleship” or whatever variation the writers put on it.
Delving into Transformers territory for much of its look, director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Hancock) embraces the premise as best he can, with brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber delivering a script both too long and underwritten. The movie is both impersonal and generic, feeling every bit as plastic as the game it is based on.
The story, as it were, starts with the fact that NASA has discovered a “Goldilocks planet” (close enough to, and far enough from, the sun in order to sustain life, and therefore just right) in a nearby galaxy. Dubbing it “Planet G” we decide to beam a signal to it hoping for a response. The movie then spends a half hour establishing a cast of characters not nearly interesting enough to carry the story.
At Oahu, Hawaii, where ne’er-do-well jobless slacker Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter, TV’s Friday Night Lights) has a propensity of making bad choices, being impetuous, and having anger issues. Luckily his older brother, Stone (True Blood) bails him out and encourages him to join him in the Navy. Physical therapist, Sam (Brooklyn Decker), who happens to be the daughter of U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), finds Alex’s irresponsibility completely charming/sees his potential. This romance totters ahead despite the fact that Alex finds himself to be tossed out of the Navy on his ear when luckily the aliens show up and distract everyone.
The chess match of first contact ensues, with everyone figuring out what is a threat by testing things with their weapons. As aliens are prone to do, they cheat, cutting off the island and creating an isolated field of engagement. Plenty of less than riveting “boom” happens for the rest of the movie.
“Stop messing things up.” –Sam
Taylor Kitsch does a commendable job with Alex’s journey of maturity from potential to living into his gifts. It’s easy to become mired in our own self-loathing. The Holy Spirit wants us to dine on truth. That we’re an image bearer of God, a beautiful creation. Yes, we’re sinners, but there’s conviction, repentance, and redemption from that. And freedom. Freedom from the chains of our addictions, our self-loathing, our self-protection, our “ugliness”. We need to set aside the lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves (or that have been programmed into us by others): that we’re a villain, a cancer, toxic to those around us; that we’re unworthy of loving or being loved, that others are better off without us.
It’s a matter of getting our identity straight. We are known by God. We are loved by God. Yet we don’t always believe that and don’t always see how it plays out in our lives. When our faith can’t get traction in our lives, we become stuck. We end up not living up to our potential like we should, thus we need to keep being reminded of our true identity: we’re children of God, known for exactly who we are, and loved anyway!
“Who do I call to teach you humility?” – Stone Hopper
Battleship takes a long time to get going, contents itself with underdrawn characters, and ends up being bogged down with being a love letter to the Navy. Interestingly enough, the most compelling character was an Army veteran and amputee in physical therapy, played by real-life Army vet and amputee Gregory D. Gadson. And while the nod to the heroic work of veterans who came before is admirable (and got a healthy round of applause by the crowd I saw the movie with), it added to the mixed tone of the movie. I guess we’ll have to wait for movie makers to put an alien invasion twist on Monopoly or the comedy stylings of Elefun: the movie to get it right.