The battleship, fired upon relentlessly, slowly disappears into the ocean. Liam Neeson—in all his scene-chewing, gruff glory—stares out the window of his ship and mercilessly spews out the key line, “You sunk my battleship!”
Four words, along with “Hit” and “Miss,” that effortlessly associate themselves with the childhood board game of placing pegs on coordinates and trying to “sink” another player’s plastic fleet of ships.
These are also four words that never appear in the movie. My aforementioned scene description is more of a wish unfulfilled—an absolute waste of both Neeson’s appearance and screenwriting opportunity, and I hope it haunts these writers forever.
And if that doesn’t do that trick, the entire script for “Battleship” might—or rather, the entire, disheveled product that comes as a result. Messy, loud, annoying, stupid, and remarkably nonsensical, “Battleship” is that awfully destructive movie that comes around in various disguises each summer to give me a headache and second guess this whole film critic thing.
For many years, this has come in the form of Michael Bay’s painfully torturous “Transformers” sequels—an influence to which “Battleship” never strays too far from, merely replacing explosions with splashes. I’m sorry, but surrounding these characters with an ocean only adds to the fact I want them all to fucking drown.
Mindless creations that are only used to advance story arcs, look pretty, or shoot at CGI aliens, these characters are poorly scripted burdens played by actors better suited to television (Taylor Kitsch, who was grand on “Friday Night Lights” but bland in this and “John Carter,” the leading-man experiment has notably failed) and those better suited to careers that don’t involve acting in front of a camera, i.e. model Brooklyn Decker and singer Rihanna.
But does a movie like this really care about its performances? When the movie doesn’t even use Liam Neeson to his full potential—especially considering the actor looks like he was only on set for a day—how can it be expected to worry about the remainder of its particularly dull cast? Instead, it just lets them be dull, placing reliability on the relentless action to fill the voids of character development and basic plot structure.
But all it becomes is a fiery heap of dog dung I feel like I stepped in as soon as the opening credits started, following an actually promising introduction where Taylor Kitsch steals Brooklyn Decker a chicken burrito in order to bang her. And while Neeson has mildly amusing early moments as Decker’s authoritative Admiral father, the movie is constantly writing premature checks it can not cash.
The action, the movie’s main anchor of entertainment, is so generic that once it arrives it barely even feels present. Guns get fired. Ships explode. Basically every shot from every action movie ever made is recreated poorly. As for me…well, I spent most of the time playing with my hat and waiting for the blasted thing to end.
Hit, “Battleship.” You sunk my spirits.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.