I don't expect genius from a film adapted from a board game in which players simply call out grid coordinates, but Peter Berg's Battleship barely tries. This is simply an over-long assemblage of stock characters, plot holes, crappy rock songs and cheesy special effects we've seen in countless U.S.A.-vs.-aliens films.
Admittedly, the film isn't taking itself seriously, but that's no excuse for the wooden dialogue, the absence of tension, Rihanna's terrible hairdo or the least-scary-looking aliens since Alf and E.T. left the biz. (These spacemen wear metal Power Rangers suits, sport Dr. Seuss-like goatees, and come from the lamely named Planet G.)
Our hero is Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a Hawaii-based slacker-turned-sailor who still needs to grow up. As his disapproving admiral, Liam Neeson earns his beer money growling at Hopper: "You've got the skills, but I've never seen a man waste them like you." Gosh, if only Hopper could be put to some character-challenging test, like saving the Earth from aliens.
The disgraced Hopper and his shipmates have barely started their naval exercises when alien ships do splash down in the Pacific just beyond Oahu. With their Transformerish frog-like vessels, the aliens launch an assault on the Navy boats ... with a bunch of little bombs. Just when you're thinking, "Hey, those are kinda lame," the alien base unit — a monolith with water running down it like a bank-plaza fountain from the 1970s — disgorges Giant Flaming IBM-Selectric-Typewriter Balls of Death. These head for land, where using on-board analysis (borrowed from RoboCop), the balls take out freeway supports while leaving Little Leaguers intact. (Frankly, it's never clear why the aliens are invading — whether they want to move in, take all our pineapples or just destroy stuff because that's its own kind of fun.)
Ho-hum. Neither side is worth rooting for: a bunch of squabbling goofballs in the Navy, or the aliens, who increasingly seemed to have bungled their mission. (The first thing the Planet G-men do is accidently wreck their giant phone-home device in Hong Kong.)
Normally, these sorts of live-action military cartoons are thinly disguised recruitment films. But the take-away here was less than inspiring: If you join today's high-tech Navy, you stand little chance against aliens who are armed with rudimentary frequency-disrupting technology. You know what does work? Old-school tactics like semaphore signaling, asking the Greatest Generation for help and a biker-bar special — a.k.a. pulling the helmet off an alien and punching him in the face. Might as well keep slackin'.