Somehow -- I hesitate even to guess on the details -- Hasbro persuaded Universal Pictures that it would be cool to base a movie on the Battleship game. Hasbro gets 5%, which I guess makes sense since all they provide is a little name recognition, really. Either that or they didn't bother to bargain much. I couldn't find anyone who was interested in going along to see this flick, though, which is usually a bad sign.

Taylor Kitsch was John Carter in the film of the same name, and his acting there was pretty solid. Therefore, I'm forced to conclude that the fact that I couldn't stand the character he was playing here can be traced directly to a bad script. Alex Hopper is the ultimate screw-up, basically. Nothing goes right for him and I couldn't even really bring myself to care, though I'm sure we're supposed to. Root for the underdog and all that. His brother Stone -- that appears to be his given name, not a nickname -- is played by Alexander Skarsgård, True Blood, Stellan Skarsgård's son. Stone is in the Navy, and has a second full-time job trying to get Alex to clean up his act. When Alex sees a pretty girl in a bar (Brooklyn Decker), he decides to impress her, and when the drunken stunt goes horribly, predictably wrong, he finds himself thrown into the Navy before he can say, "Whoops!"

Of course the pretty girl turns out to be Liam Neeson's daughter, just to keep Alex's perfect record of bad luck and terrible choices intact. Liam Neeson was Zeus in Wrath of the Titans, and he's hardly any less intimidating while playing a mere mortal. He isn't in this film very much, and frankly I'm surprised he was in it at all. He could do so much better.

Anyway, after Alex has been in the Navy for a while, they have some war games. A bunch of countries participate in mock battles and some sporting events as a way of building unity or some such. Considering Alex is involved, I'm surprised this attempt at unity doesn't lead directly to World War III, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Which reminds me; Hasbro is hoping to persuade Ridley Scott to direct the movie version of Monopoly. Sounds like a joke, doesn't it? No such luck, though, sadly.

Meanwhile, we've been sending out these signals into deep space, aimed at a planet that seems capable of supporting life. This seems to me like about as good a plan as turning Candyland into a movie starring Adam Sandler... except Hasbro is also trying to arrange that. I'm not making this up, honestly. Hamish Linklater of The Big C plays a scientist who also thinks letting Adam Sandler anywhere near a childhood classic like Candyland is a bad idea. Wait, I mean he thinks the deep space signals are a bad idea. But they get sent once a day, and they lure in these alien ships.

Conveniently, there are five of them, and they fire bombs that look like the little pegs you use in the game to mark hits and misses. They overlay a nice little grid of numbers and letters onto the firing computer screen at one point so they can call out their hits against the alien ships that don't register on radar. And if you think that sounds painful, try watching it for two hours and 11 minutes. I could've played three actual games of Battleship in that length of time, and probably had a lot more fun. Unlike your usual sort of game, it doesn't even have consistent internal rules. They're a little like Predator aliens in that they don't bother attacking if they don't view you as a threat. A ship with guns pointed at them, or one that's dared to fire at them, gets marked in red on their little heads-up display, as does anything that they might be interested in studying or using. Non-threatening or just uninteresting things are marked green. Except at one point, they decide that the concrete supports holding up the highway need to go, and I'm not sure what the reasoning was there.

There were some things that I liked. Tadanobu Asano, last seen in Thor, here plays Captain Yugi Nagata, and it is amusing to watch Peter MacNicol (Numb3rs) as the Secretary of State trying to order Liam Neeson around. Jesse Plemons, who plays a crewman named Ord, was in Friday Night Lights with Taylor Kitsch, and he's endearingly overwhelmed by everything. The Chief Petty Officer, also known as Beast, is played by John Tui, who was in various Power Rangers series, and I liked him. He was very practical, and the movie needed that desperately. And I liked Adam Godley from X-Files: I Want to Believe, even though he plays the scientist who starts the whole mess in the first place.

Sadly, that's pretty much everything that I liked. Well, the music was good, and the effects, but yeah, it was kind of a stinker. Or sinker, maybe, though I've already seen way too many puns out there about this, unfortunately. The final battle scene managed to be both kind of heartwarming and utterly silly at the same time, which I guess is something of an achievement, though it still doesn't earn this one more than two and a half out of five. Now I think I'll just be relieved that at least the deal to turn the Ouija board into a movie looks to have fallen apart. For one thing, that's kind of already been done.

The movie is more high-tech, but otherwise this version is better.


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