Confession: I’m usually in Peter Berg’s corner. Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom and Hancock all show a director with a wild streak Hollywood can’t totally tame. But Battleship, based on Hasbro’s naval-combat game, shows Berg trying to transform into demon box-office machine Michael Bay. Can you aim lower? Battleship is all noise and crashing metal, sinking to the shallows of Bay’s Armageddon and then digging to the brain-extinction level of the Transformers trilogy.
No wonder the cast gives up on acting. It’s not that screenwriting brothers Erich and Jon Hoeber (Red) don’t put words in their mouths. The problem is, they do. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” says Alex Hooper (Taylor Kitsch), a Navy lieutenant stationed in Oahu, Hawaii, who gets caught up in an alien invasion at sea. Alex is a screw-up. He’s dating Sam (Brooklyn Decker), the hottie daughter of the admiral (Liam Neeson) who hates him. And he knows his captain brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), is a way-better hardass. So while Sam stays on land with paraplegic Army veteran Mick (real-life Iraq hero Gregory D. Gadson) to make sure these E.T.s don’t phone home, Alex and his weapons specialist (Rihanna, of all people) take aim at the muthafuckers. Actually it’s just “muthas,” thanks to a PG-13 rating. Berg panders shamelessly for the big finish, enlisting the real WWII battleship USS Missouri, and its old-school crew. Way to go, Battleship: Take the crassest of cynical junk, slather it in jingoism and sell it as rah-rah fun for right-wingers.