Review: ‘Battleship’ is true-blue at heart

Breathe easy. Battleship is not as bad as you’ve been led to believe.

With some exciting action and a good heart, it’s worth seeing, even if it is loud and incoherent at times.

I mean, really, aren’t we all?

What do we want from a summer blockbuster other than to make us jump and make us care? Battleship does both, even if you’re still not entirely sure what happened when you walk out the door.

The story starts when the entire Hawaiian US Navy fleet sets out to do joint exercises with other Pacific allies, led by the steely Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson).

It’s not really a good time.

Aliens have picked up on a deep space beacon sent out by the Earth. Apparently, the message of peace and exploration didn’t translate, because they’re following that beacon to what they think will be their next easy planetary conquest.

Immediately, they set up a forcefield keeping all those boats with big guns away from the islands as they set up their communications with the main force.

Only a few ships remain within, one of them led by the rebellious Lt. Hopper (Taylor Kitsch). When he’s not rebelling against Navy rules, Hopper is madly in love with Shane’s daughter Sam (Brooklyn Decker) and wants to work up the courage to ask the Admiral for her hand.

A few aliens are nothing compared to a crabby Liam Neeson. I think we can all agree on that.

For her part, Sam is a physical therapist working with a vet who lost both legs (Greg Gadson, a real Iraq vet profiled here). He may have another battle to fight after all.

Based on the Hasbro boardgame, the movie plays with the idea of finding enemy ships when all radar has been knocked down. The CGI aliens and ships pack a big punch but don’t really terrify. They look kind of like humans in a Transformers costume.

Not all of the plot makes sense. At times, the relentless aliens inexplicably choose not to kill some people while laying waste to others. Their objective of contacting home seems, well, incomplete. After all, they’ve already found Earth. Is an text home going to change anything?

For all the confusion, the bottom line of the movie is true-blue. The heart of the story is respect for our Navy and other armed service.

Toward the beginning of the film, a ceremony honors veterans of former wars, wizened and wrinkly salts who served in Korea, Vietnam, and other engagements. They provide a continuity to the characters and the movie. Later, the same vets have a chance to serve their country again.

And boy, do they.

The same respect is shown for Greg Gadson’s character, Mick. After losing both legs, he isn’t sure if he has any fight left in him. Still,  when his country and the world need him, he doesn’t hesitate to fight, prosthetic legs and all. This character is fantastic and almost deserves his own movie.

With all the well-intentioned concern for our returning military, in America there is a whiff in the air, the faintest hint, of condescension. We must help our troops. We must take care of them. Some of this is good, but there is a trend of thought that feels sorry for troops that they were tricked into fighting in that nasty old war in the first place and feels that they’ve been so damaged that surely they need help from those of us who were wise enough to avoid the whole thing.

As if that makes any sense.

It can get downright patronizing.

The character of Mick slaps all that down. Yes, he needs medical care, obviously, and deserves it. But the film respects him as a person who is broken in body, but not necessarily in spirit. He begins discouraged but is never quite the vision of hopelessness that some expect. As the movie goes on, the same spirit that moved him through Iraq now moves him against the aliens. His service has not destroyed him.

I wish the rest of the movie was as good as Mick’s storyline and that of the other veterans. Although there are fun and exciting battles, some action at the beginning gets bogged down. Rated PG-13, there’s some light language, no sexuality, and only cartoonish, non-gory violence. It’s appropriate for teens. All this adds up to a good time and a perfectly valid choice for an evening out, not at all the bomb it’s perceived to be.

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  • wow, i’m surprised to see someone make a case for this lol

  • Rebecca Cusey

    I liked it. I thought it was fine. What I liked best were the vet storylines, but everything else was good at times and I was glad I saw it. It was entertaining. I don’t think it deserves the strong negative reaction it is getting. Just callin’ it as I see it.

  • Rebecca — this, and your (also surprising) review of The Dictator, has adjusted my thinking in ways surprising to myself [!]. Your reviews are changing my take on the movies I see and WHAT movies I choose to watch. (Is there a higher compliment that can be offered a movie review than that? . . . 🙂 )

  • Rebecca Cusey


    That is so nice. I really appreciate the encouragement. I’ll have to up my game!