Our meeting started off with a highly ignominious beginning. A pretty rare one for me, in that when I walked into the theater I had the lowest negative expectation I had seen in myself in years. It wasn’t your fault, it was more like a summer tent pole aversion. For every one-step-forward big budget movie I had seen that I liked recently, I had seen two or three I wanted to toss into the “Drum-O-Wasted Budgets.” Lets just say, I sat there with my big bag of popcorn ready to sling it at the screen, as snide and leery as I could be. I was looking forward to being ‘right’ again in my unrelenting opinion about the degradization of mainstream Hollywood projects.
But then as the opening of the movie takes us through ‘the chicken burrito’ scene, I realize, this film starts well with some humor and heart. As our protagonist Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) quickly shows me more of why I liked him in John Carter. As the whole thing shifts to the Naval games in Hawaii, we find Alex in the military like his brother and as he shows his hardheadedness with a Japanese officer, his whole career is in jeopardy as he once again seems to play the fuck-up to a T. At this point I realize how well Peter Berg made us care about Alex and his smoking hot blonde-bombshell girlfriend that he wants to make his wife. If that wasn’t a surprise then there is all the humor involved with him trying to ask for her hand in marriage.
Suddenly, I realize I have already laughed out loud a handful of times. What the hell is this? I find I am caught up in this quite cleverly. It amazes me, in the wake of such recent shit as Wrath of Titans, Dark Shadows and God Bless America. Even the mediocrity of Avengers contributes to the malaise I had initially while taking my seat.
I am caught up in this like you should be with great summer fare. When three battleships are peeled off to investigate the inevitable alien landing at sea, his brother Stone captaining one, Alex runs weapons on another and the Japanese captain from earlier helms the third. When the encounter happens and this otherworldly scout mission rolls out its three very superior battle ships, it sets up a perimeter shield a lot like the Gungans did in star wars. There is no getting in and no getting out, unfortunately this shield works on a scale of hundreds of square miles and it includes the nearest Hawaiian island where the recent very successful SETI-like communication array sits. Unfortunately the bulk of the fleet sits outside and can’t do squat.
Meanwhile, as the three battle cruisers take it to the intruders, the aliens nonchalantly sinks two of the three. The one Stone commanded goes down with all hands on board, the Japanese boat holds its own well enough to get a chunk of its crew picked up by the boat Alex now captains as the rest command crew is killed in action. This last ship limps off as day turns to night and we cut to his Samantha on top of a hill with a vet she is doing therapy with that has lost both legs at mid thigh. As they stumble on the guy that runs the array and see that the aliens are trying to seize it, they jump into the fray and try to get a message out to whoever is left inside the barrier with the war games.
What follows reminds me of the brilliant character work in Battle: Los Angeles with all the characters being fleshed out using well manipulated tropes and quirks that individualize them all the more. Even the weapons grunt Rihanna plays has some guts to her and it gets the job done. As Alex and the Japanese Captain, pull off one surprise after another and makes use of anything and everything at theire availability, even the old USS Missouri when his ship is sunk. When everything comes down to the wire and it works out in crazy moments of intensity, and innovative twists of action, you know the aliens have to come up short.
I mean hell, Alex has to win so he can ask the admiral for his daughters hand in marriage and of course the admiral has to say no. As I laugh one more time, I shake my head in pleasant consternation thinking crap, I like you, I like you a lot and just when my faith in the summer roller coaster/rocket ride is all but quashed, someone like you steps up, restores my faith and takes me on that blast of a ride that I think is one step away from extinct. You sunk my jadedness, Battleship.