The game is played on four grids, two for each player. The grids are typically square and labeled with letters and numbers. On one grid the player arranges ships and records the shots by the opponent. On the other grid the player records his/her own shots as either "hits" or "misses". Before play begins, each player secretly arranges their ships on their primary grid. Each ship occupies a number of consecutive squares on the grid, arranged either horizontally or vertically. The number of squares for each ship is determined by the type of the ship: aircraft carrier, submarine, cruiser/destroyer, patrol boat, and battleship.
Each ship is a different size, taking up different amounts of squares. The goal is to sink all of your opponents ships before yours get sunk, by taking turns guessing a numbered square. Simple and straightforward. So how do you turn this game into a major summer blockbuster? The very idea is laughable.
Enter Peter Berg, who I first saw in Chicago Hope and through a guest spot on Alias (I loved that show!). He started his directing career with a few episodes of Chicago Hope in 1997, then moved on to Very Bad Things - which I would describe as an earlier, darker version of The Hangover. His other directorial pieces are: The Rundown (2003), Friday Night Lights (2004), then the FNL TV show (2006 - 2009), The Kingdom (2007), and Hancock (2008). I really enjoyed the Rundown - it's the Rock running through Brazil after Sean William Scott, while Rosario Dawson pretends to be Brazilian and Christopher Walken plays Christopher Walken in Brazil. It's a very straightforward buddy action/comedy romp.
The most quality of Berg's movies was Hancock. It suffered from being marketed wrong. They attemped to sell it as a comedy starring Will Smith as an amnesiac super powered man, however, the movie and serious and deeper undertones. It was well done and well played by Smith, Charlize Theron, and the always wonderful Jason Bateman.
Hancock is the best one of Berg's movies to use as a start of a discussion of Battleship. He has done a good job with all of his movies, and proven to be a very competent action director, but I was still skeptical when he was announced as the director of Battleship. Although, I was suprised anyone was announed as the director for Battleship - how is that a movie?
Similar to Hancock, the marketing for Battleship has been a bit, well, unconvincing at best. It looked awful. Cheesy, over-the-top Transformers rip-off to fill the space between Avengers and Batman. It is all of those things, but here's the true surprise: it's a good, fun movie!
Apparently Berg has taken a Michael Bay filmmaking crash course, because this movie looks amazing. There are plenty of Bay-trademarks: long slow shots of groups of heroes from below, sweeping arial shots of military craft and landscapes, and a shot of a scantily-clad chick. Aside from that last one - I am not complaining. I love the way Bay movies look and I loved the way this movie looks.
Everyone did a fine job in their role, which is not saying much, not a ton of work was required.
- Kitsch is slowly improving - still slightly wooden, but it fits right in with his character in this. The opening scene of him attempting to woo Brooklyn Decker's character is very entertaining, plus, results with him mostly naked in a bathtub, no complaints there. He is on his way to a promising B-level action career. Someone get on that Gambit movie already...
- Liam Neeson is barely in this - and essentially is playing Liam Neeson in a Naval uniform - he's good, but then, he always is.
- Decker is in this and the currently playing What to Expect When You're Expecting. I have never seen her in anything else, and in a role that could have fallen into the typical 'hot chick' Bay-style role, is better because she does have some stuff to do in the middle of the movie that give her character a little more depth.
- There is the obvious stunt casting of pop star (notice I did not say singer) Rhianna. She's fine as a battleship gunner, but really, she's just playing Michelle Rodriguez. Is there another actress out there that can convincingly pull off the 'tough chick' role? Is Rodriguez all we have? Maybe Milla Jovovich, but they are both shooting RE5 right now, and couldn't do this role. Zoe Saldana? maybe?
- Tandanobu Asano, who we last saw in Thor, steps in as Kitsch's rival Japanese naval captain and helps to save the day once they learn to work together - no spoiler there, it's predictable.
- Hamish Linkletter (New Adventures of Old Christine) plays the geeky scientist. There's always one in this movie - and his level of geeky is pretty good.
- I did love the character Mick, played by real-life army vet and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson. His general attitude of "the hell with this" throughout the majority of the movie provides equal parts comedy and genuine touching moments.
The majority of the extras in the film are either current or retired Navy, which does help lend a little believability. The other piece that I really loved is that when our heroes are running out of ships - they decide to use the retired USS Missouri battleship as their final fighting chance. They get to team up with the WWII Navy vetrans who are currently working on board the battleship as it has been turned into a museum. A little cheesy, but also unbelievably touching, in my opinion, and easily my favorite moment.
You should see this - on the big screen, and for memorial day. Don't expect too much from it, it's just silly, superficial, good-looking, popcorn fun!
8 out of 10.
Bonus Video 1: Peter Berg discussing this movie - his stars - the navy - a bunch of stuff.
Bonus Video 2: Liam Neeson on "Get in The Cage" on SNL...hilarious!
Bonus Video 3: Double your Skarsgards...