Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane
Taylor Kitsch as Alex Hopper
Tadanobu Asano as Nagata
Alexander Skarsgård as Stone Hopper
Brooklyn Decker as Samantha
Rihanna as Cora Raikes
Jesse Plemons as Ordy
U.S. Army Colonel Gregory D. Gatson as Mick
John Bell as Angus
Peter MacNicol as Secretary of Defense
Josh Pence as Chief Moore
Hamish Linklater as Cal
Adam Godley as Dr. Nogrady
Billy Slaughter as William
Reila Aphrodite as Sam
Stephen Bishop as OOD Taylor
Luing Andrews as Admiral Jack
Kevin P. Kearns as Jimmy
Brian Hirono as Myoko OOD Lt. Yokoe

Directed by Peter Berg

Weak aliens, a predictable plot, and poor characters make “Battleship” a film only worth checking out for the visual effects spectacle. If you’re looking for something more than a mindless popcorn flick, look elsewhere.

“Battleship” is based on the classic game by Hasbro.

Alex Hopper is a young man who lacks focus in his life. He can’t hold down a job, he keeps getting in trouble with the law, he doesn’t act his age, and he’s hard headed. Alex has no future. But when he gets arrested one last time, his brother gets fed up with him and does the only thing he thinks he can do to set him straight. He pushes Alex to join the Navy.

Flash forward several years, and Alex is now starting to show his potential as a Naval officer. He’s also in love with Admiral Shane’s daughter and is prepared to marry her, but on the eve of a major international Naval exercise, Alex’s old demons return and he gets into a fight with a Japanese officer. Now on the brink of losing his girl and his career, Alex is sent to sea one more time for the exercises. Too bad for him that’s when aliens decide to invade the Earth.

As alien ships land in the Pacific Ocean off of Hawaii, Alex and the crew of his destroyer find themselves in position to be the only ones to stop the invasion, but they’re going to have to quickly learn the aliens’ tactics as well as overcome their own issues in order to save the Earth.

“Battleship” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.

What Worked:
If you’re going to go into a movie based on a board game, you’re probably not going in expecting an Oscar winning film. And you’d be correct. This is a popcorn flick in every sense of the word. So going into this film with adjusted expectations is a major key in enjoying it. I played the game a lot as a kid. I even play it on my iPhone now. So seeing how they integrate the game elements into the film is kind of fun as well as silly. The alien ships shoot missiles that look like the pegs from the game. They hit the ships, lodge in the hull, then explode. Later we see Alex and his crew taking blind shots at the aliens by tracking them on a grid. It’s goofy, but you did enter the theater labeled “Battleship,” so you knew what you were getting into.

A lot of people jokingly refer to this film as “Transformers 4” and it’s not that far off. The alien ships look like they were from Transformers pre-production artwork. They also shoot razor balls that destroy buildings, ships, and anything standing in their way. So there’s definitely a Transformer feel here. And one of the main appeals of this film is the visual effects and mass destruction. On that front it delivers.

What Didn’t Work:
“Battleship” is in the unenviable position of being released after “The Avengers.” That film showed us that you could have major visual effects mayhem as well as good dialogue, good characters, and a good plot. “Battleship” lacks everything but the effects, and it’s even more apparent coming so soon after “The Avengers.’

“Battleship” starts out quite strong, actually. We’re introduced to Taylor Kitsch as Alex Hopper. He’s amusingly established as a loveable screw-up as he goes on a misguided quest to buy a chicken burrito for Samantha, his future love. As the film progresses, however, the ‘character moments’ are less and less effective to the point where they become cliché. Rihanna as Cora Raikes becomes your by-the-book tough chick. Hamish Linklater as Cal is your cowardly scientist. Peter MacNicol as Secretary of Defense is your standard incredulous bureaucrat. The characters are just weak across the board. One of the biggest offenses committed is with Jesse Plemons as Ordy. Mid-battle he freezes and in a terrified voice says to Alex, “Give me an order, sir!! I don’t know what to do!!!” Frankly, I’m shocked that the Navy would allow Peter Berg to use millions of dollars worth of their ships and crew, then make them and other Naval officers look like mindless drones who fall apart in combat. If I was in charge of wrangling Hollywood for the Navy, I would have had them edit that dialogue.

My bigger problem is with the aliens because literally everything about them is weak. First of all, they look like the result of an unholy union between the Lorax and the Geico Gecko. Even my children thought they looked stupid. Second, their tactics as intergalactic invaders are moronic. They don’t attack anything until they literally stop mid-battle, evaluate if something is a threat, then either attack or move on. This is most apparent in a scene where one of the razor balls flies hundreds of miles, lands in a baseball field, then freezes as it does a full tactical analysis of a Little League baseball player before moving on and destroying an overpass. Huh? This becomes even more of an absurd weakness on their part as the movie progresses. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. These alien invaders are as stupid as the ones in “Independence Day,” but not as cool as them. At least the “ID4” aliens torched our cities first and asked questions later. As alien overlords, they get my respect even if they were defeated by a computer virus and a Mac.

Matters aren’t helped any by the fact that the trailer tells you everything you need to know about the movie. All of the coolest scenes are in it and you can fill in the blanks with your imagination on the rest. The movie was already predictable even if you hadn’t seen the trailer, so matters aren’t helped by it.

If you are a parent, you might think it’s OK to take your kids to a Hasbro movie based on a board game you grew up with which looks like “Transformers.” Well, my advice is to heed the PG-13 rating. Like with “Transformers,” there’s a lot of language here. Characters yell out every variation of ‘s**t’ quite often, and there’s even a couple of cut off ‘motherfu…’ blurted out. I used to think Michael Bay was steamrolling over Hasbro to have that language in the films, but now I see Hasbro is allowing it. So if you have a problem with young kids hearing language in films, be aware it’s in “Battleship” a lot.

The Bottom Line:
I took two boys age 10 and 7 to “Battleship” and they loved it. I, personally, was counting the minutes until it was over. I’d recommend this one as more of a renter than something to blow a ton of money on at the theater. It’s not unwatchable, but it’s not great either.