‘Battleship’ (2012): The battleship always goes down first

‘Battleship’ needs no help sinking itself

In case you were under any suggestion otherwise, Michael Bay did not direct “Battleship.” You would never know that. And though they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, “Battleship” a hectic, poorly written, special effect-laden bonanza on par with “Skyline” or “Battle: Los Angeles” is a poor attempt at cashing in on others’ success. (And yes, “Battleship” will go on to make millions anyways.)

Above, Rihanna is shown in a scene from "Battleship." (Photo credit: Universal Pictures)

Above, Rihanna is shown in a scene from “Battleship.” (Photo credit: Universal Pictures)

Loosely based on the Hasbro game first played on paper, than with plastic boards and then on video screens, “Battleship” is a noisy, rambling creature that more lurches to its highly unbelievable denouement even for the science-fiction genre than naturally flows, despite the abundance of water. It takes yet another Hasbro creation (think “Transformers”) and decides to remove any subtext. Not to say there was a lot of subtext when it came to the board game, but some intelligence was required. Not so much with the theatrical rendition.

Directed by Peter Berg, the uninspired “Battleship” unassumingly begins with naval war games being conducted by the United States Navy, and its allies, off the coast of Hawaii. It doesn’t long, however, before the drills are disrupted by visitors from another planet. (Their visit, not surprisingly, was spurred by humans sending signals into deep space to seek out alien life. Oops.)

But despite, or maybe because of, the aliens’ far superior technology and weaponry, a band of makeshift heroes unite, including Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson, working together to overcome their foes. One of movie’s few clever moments involves a scene where the ship’s remaining crew play a game of “Where’s the alien ship going next?” It’s strikingly similar to the game itself, and the method used to simulate the guessing is actually ingenious.

Sadly, too few of these moments can be found, and instead we’re bombarded with patronizing Greatest Generation and injured veterans shout-outs. When that’s not enough to make you giggle inappropriately, there’s even a scene where the singer Rihanna, playing a petty office, rails against the machine with a rather underwhelming turret gun. She’s not bad in the bland role, but seeing her try to attack a deadly enemy ship with what amounts to a BB gun is hilarious in all the wrong ways.

But the type of audience naturally attracted to the likes of “Battleship” won’t care much. The obscene explosions and stunning visual effects, of which there are many, are eye candy. The naval battles make you want to board the nearest Navy destroyer. Still, they aren’t sweet enough to save “Battleship” from sinking in mediocrity.

Two battling stars out of five.

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