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Laramie Movie Scope: Battleship

A fine example of a big, loud, dumb action movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 19, 2012 -- When my wife asked me what movie I was going to see yesterday, I replied, “It's a big, dumb action movie.” Little did I know it is more than that. It is a patriotic, flag waving recruiting tool for the Navy that wears its heart on its sleeve, along the lines of “Battle Los Angeles,” “Act of Valor,” “G.I. Joe” and other movies that make military service look cool and heroic.

Well, I am a sucker for these kinds of movies (I liked “John Carter” and “The Green Lantern” too), particularly if they have a good deal of science fiction in them, and this one does. The science part of the equation is way off base in terms of time and technology. The time it takes for a signal from earth to get to another planet, which in this case leads to an exploratory military force being sent from that planet to earth, would take at least 10 years. In all probability such a visit would take 50 years or a lot more than that, even if the alien fleet could travel faster than light, which is impossible by any known science. The universe is a vast place. It has taken 13 billion years for the light of some stars to reach the earth. There probably is intelligent life out there in the universe someplace, but the distances between earth and other planets is so great we may never be able to even send signals back and forth, let alone visit in person.

Anyway, the signal is sent from earth to another earth-like planet. The other planet sends a military fleet to earth as part of a planned takeover. The plans go awry as their communication satellite is destroyed. The aliens plan to confiscate a human satellite and use it to call for reinforcements. The humans have to stop this plan, or face possible extinction. The story is very loosely based on a board game of the same name.

The hero of the story is Lieutenant Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch of “John Carter”) a perpetual screw-up who is trying to straighten his life out after meeting the woman of his dreams, the sexy Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker of “Just Go With It”) who just happens to be the daughter of the Naval fleet commander, Admiral Shane. Alex also happens to be the brother of Naval Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård of “Melancholia”). That gives bad boy Alex Hopper a definite leg up on the average military grunt, and he takes full advantage of his connections. However, he keeps finding ways to screw up anyway.

Alex is just about to be kicked out of the Navy for good when he is saved by the alien invasion, which manages to kill off all the senior officers, leaving him in charge of a destroyer. Isolated by a force field, his destroyer is the last hope to save all of humanity from the alien invaders. Well, not quite, there is a small group in Hawaii led by Alex's girlfriend, Samantha, along with a soldier recovering from amputations of both legs, Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales (played by a real U.S. military double amputee, the inspirational Gregory Gadson) and a NASA geek, Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater of “Fantastic Four”) who doesn't want to be a hero at all. These three find themselves in a situation where they are the only people in a position to disable the communications array the aliens hope to use to contact their home planet.

The movie even manages to drag the Battleship Missouri into the fight along with several former crew members from World War II. The USS Missouri, now a floating museum, supposedly has enough fuel and live ammunition on board to carry the fight to the aliens. When the Battleship swings itself around an anchor at full speed in a crazy combat maneuver, the movie loses what little credibility it had. Big Mo is a huge ship, millions of pounds going at full speed, it will break an anchor chain or drag an anchor, but it won't do a tight pivot, not if Newton's laws of motion are still in effect. But when you go to see a big, dumb action movie, you have to expect this sort of thing.

The action and the acting is good enough to carry the day, including good performances by Rihanna (who has been in a lot more movie soundtracks as a performer than on screen as an actor) as the feisty Petty Officer Cora 'Weps' Raikes, burly Rico McClinton as Captain Browley and Tadanobu Asano as Captain Yugi Nagata. It seemed a bit odd for an American naval captain and a Japanese captain to be working together to protect Pearl Harbor, as well as the rest of Hawaii and the world. The pace of the movie is a little slow in spots and it is dumb enough not to be believable, but if you ignore that, it isn't a bad action movie. This film rates a B.

According to early box office results, this film appears to be a financial flop along the lines of “John Carter,” for the same reason: It just cost too much to make ($209 million) in relation to any reasonable projection of the size of its audience. Heads may roll as a result. It has made nearly $300 million (gross, not net) at the worldwide box office, so it is no flop, but it probably won't cover the huge cost of making and promoting this film.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)