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The sources used to base stories used in movies running the gamut from bestselling novels to popular Broadway plays. Even a few song lyrics have found their way into the offices of busy screen writers. many though that such a slim sliver of material was pushing the limits to what could be used to devise the premise of a big budget, feature length movie but apparently this conjecture wad incorrect. Apparently board games are suitable to drive an action flick as demonstrated by the summer ‘block buster ‘Battleship’. As film ideas goes this one does seem to be scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. After all this game doesn’t even require a board; it can be played with as little as two pieces of paper and a couple of really bored guys. Sure there are fancy battery driven versions but the paper and pencil variety has keep a couple of disinterested students or junior executive engaged until the meeting or class is over. this is not the first time this has been attempt, a few years ago the board game ‘Clue’ made it to the local Cineplex so enthusiastic devotees of ‘Hungry, Hungry Hippos might still have a shot .although the movie fell short of the over $200 million budget the film help up much better than I expected although it does help considerably that the best examples of lucratively successful action movie have gotten by with thinner plot lines than exhibited here but that is de rigueur for the action genre so it can typically slip through virtually unnoticed by the fans. Admittedly I had my doubts about this film but even with the flimsiest of plots, incredulous plot devices and the use of physics not found anywhere in this time space continuum. Ultimately such an observations shift the critical criteria significantly so that reality is not all that much of a concern. Like some of the ‘B’ flicks of our youth you cannot approach this film with any portion of our brain’s higher reasoning facilities functioning. The most important factor in the consideration of a movie such as this is whether or not it’s fun to watch. In the case of ‘Battleship’ the answer is yes.

The short version of the story, not that the longer one includes more details, is a group of alien space craft arrive on Earth apparently following those pesky broadcasts from SETI. It looks like the fifties all over again with science responsible for a monstrous problem that the military has to fix. The extra terrestrials immediately start in blowing up the core of our Pacific battle fleet and throwing up is impenetrable force field isolating much of the region including Hawaii. With so much of the fleet destroyed and several of the alien crafts blown up it quickly comes down to an exchange of explosive rounds between the alien aggressors and the American Navel defenders. Within an incredibly brief time mothballed battleships and crewmembers well into their retirement are pressed into active service. Both men and ships are so old that they part of the permanent exhibit in Hawaii. At lease this is an attempt on the part of the filmmaker to justify the fate of the planet relegated to the hands and machinery so long past its expiration date. The main feature of the game that is universally recognizable is the calling out of the coordinates; ‘B-4, C-5’ etc. in a world of GPS precise to the foot or so there had to be some thought given to the introduction of this within the parameters of the environment. The logic used, at least what passes for logic here, is with the force fields and other alien induced disturbances in the electromagnetic spectrum, the only technology left functioning that can provide a rough approximation of the location of the alien craft is an old network of tsunami warning buoys. That can give a rough location on the same order of accuracy used in the game. At least it permits the same dialogue we expect at the crucial moment of the battle.

Without much of a plot a lot is riding on the special effects. Under normal circumstances I tend to avoid movies that are all sizzle and no steak, a comment entirely appropriate regarding this film. Sometimes you don’t want an elaborately prepared culinary delight; you want the immediate gratification of a fast food burger. This film is the cinematic equivalent; you know it is nothing substantial but every so often it is fun. That is precisely the situation here; expect son popcorn flick fun and have enjoy a couple of hours sojourn from reality

The cast is a bit on the more mature side so there had to be a way to fill the seats with a younger demographic. Predominately this was done through a younger central cast featuring faces readily recognizable by the younger viewers. This is the main objective of featuring the singer/dancer/fashionista Rihanna and the Viking vampire from True Blood, Alexander Skarsgård. I knew from some of his other work he could play this sort of a flick with a straight face and give it his professional all but once again the film pleasantly surprised me. Rihanna did very well as an actor. She is working on this aspect of expanding her career in an intelligent way. She is already at the top of her musical profession so it would have been easy to talk a producer into a vanity project were a lack of experience would be painfully evident. Just talk a minute and recall all the times you have seen this happen. Instead Rihanna took a relatively small role here in order to become familiar with the intricacies of making a movie and the fact they are significantly different from a music video. This reminded me of how Queen Latifah handled the same transition. She worked her new craft taking roles that would give her experience instead of a brighter spotlight. It also placed her in the same cast as far better actors like Liam Neeson. The way they mixed the generations also has been done many times before bur it does work; they had to resort to trainees to crew the dilapidated decommissioned ship. It worked in the ‘Wrath of Kahn’ after all.

The film is quickly paced and loud, with suitable explosions regularly spaced in the movie. this was a summer block buster and now the Blu-ray and DVD can help you face the end of summer with the same movie that entertained you at the beginning of the season. this movie is a good old fashion jingoist jaunt that harkens back in spirit to the classic Audey Murphy film many of us grew up watching. there is an undeiable good feeling that washes over the audience when the American underdogs rise up ingeniously and proudly kick some extra terrestrial butt.

Posted 08/20/12

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