‘Battleship’ is silly, but it stays afloat

IN “BATTLE LOS ANGELES,” we learned what happens to aliens stupid enough to invade a city where Michelle Rodriquez is stationed.

I can see how an alien might have missed “Machete,” but have they really seen NONE of the “Fast and Furious” movies? There are five of them, and she’s in three.

The aliens in “Battleship” are no smarter. They drop an invading “War of the Worlds” army into the ocean off the shore of Hawaii, right next to a ship staffed by Rihanna, who immediately jumps into a rubber raft and races to confront them with a Gatling gun.

Later, Rihanna works a battleship’s massive deck gun that’s just inches away from an alien’s head, and when he turns to face it, she gets to say: “Mahalo, Motherbleeper.”

I bring this to your attention so you know that “Battleship” is an action comedy, with the emphasis on the comedy.

The opening slapstick sequence finds lifelong screw-up Taylor Kitsch arrested for breaking-and-entering a convenience store to microwave a burrito for a hungry blonde (Brooklyn Decker). A second later he’s in the Navy, and somehow an officer, and a second after that he gets a battlefield promotion, and is leading a multinational attack on the alien fleet.

His meteoric rise through the ranks is almost as preposterous as the alien arrival. When a scientist sends a message to a distant galaxy, the aliens arrive, like, a day later. I’m no wormhole specialist, but that strikes me as an awfully quick turnaround.

In short, we could accurately abbreviate the title “Battleship” as simply BS. But it’s BS with the right director. Peter Berg has wide-screen chops, and has shown a previous knack for tongue-in-cheek, action-comedy bombast (“The Rundown”), and while his movie is long, it’s fast, efficient, and keenly aware of its popcorn-movie mission statement.

And the movie has a strange sort of heart. Amid the usual earsplitting (aliens still make that mega-fog-horn sound) Hollywood FX folderol, we have actual combat veterans making actual contributions to the story. Paraplegic Iraq war vet Gregory D. Gadson leads a land-based assault on the aliens, and a Greatest Generation collection of actual Pacific Theater veterans takes a World War II battleship on one, last heroic mission.

Using real vets in movies has been done before, but not like this. Call it “The Most Awesome Years of Our Lives.” I’m sure others will call it a sign of cultural pathology, but it doesn’t feel that way when you see it.

Berg knows it’s BS, we know it’s BS, but as long as we’re making a BS summer movie, why not give servicemen a tribute they can truly appreciate: a paying gig. n

Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or thompsg@phillynews.com. Read his blog, “Keep It Reel,” atphilly.com/keepitreel.

REVIEW | sss


Directed by Peter Berg. With Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 132 minutes

Parent’s Guide: PG-13 (violence, aliens)

Playing at: Area Theaters


Directed by Peter Berg. With Liam Neeson, Gary Grubbs, Peter MacNicol, Tadanobu Asano, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgård, Taylor Kitsch, Josh Pence, Jesse Plemons, Rihanna. Distributed by Universal.

Parent's guide: Unrated ().