Peter Berg's take on the popular Hasbro, formerly Milton Bradley game (whose boards open up like laptops do these days) has an awfully silly convenience about it, but still whips up enough apocalyptic frenzy and creativity from a source that allows extraterrestrials to fire peg-like bombs into ships. Through Battleship (ideally seen on giant screens or in the IMAX experience) he's channeling his inner Navy child with noticeable chauvinistic patriotism into unabashed amusing popcorn entertainment.
The maker of The Kingdom and the very well-received Friday Night Lights, as well as Hancock, has a big-budget to work (ala Michael Bay in his Pearl Harbor heyday) with and serviceable stars who at least manage some eye candy for viewers, including Rihanna's screen debut, though no one as big as Jamie Foxx or Will Smith.
Taylor Kitch, who, for some, flexed some brawny charm in the commercially floundering John Carter, as Alex Hopper sheds his ne'er-do-well demeanor into later Pacific Rim Navy duty thanks to older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard of Melancholia) keeping him from somehow staying on the right side of the law.
In a story line that may have some viewers recalling elements Armageddon or Transformers and its sequels (though perhaps more fun for those who thought these Michael Bay extravaganza stretched the limits of disbelief even with dialogue more banal and corny), Alex's naval officer becomes thrust into duty along with his crew, Rihanna's somewhat profane Petty Officer Raikes, Jesse Plemons' peppy crewman Ordy and a rival captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) after an alien invasion whose forcefield (not so clearly delineated) around their vessel named Destroyer isolates it from the fleet.
Of course, there's a romantic underlying strand to what is cheesy, virile and predictable on an emotional level which includes Hopper's vacuous, comely fiancee (Brooklyn Decker). Decker's Sam happens to be stranded on a nearby Hawaiian Island that the presumably clever intruders have set their sites on, and is the daughter of the intractable Admiral Shane, gruffly endowed by Liam Neeson (better used in films like The A-Team and, more recently, The Grey where he had more leading status).
The filmmakers obviously have targeted the primary moviegoing demographic as the summer blockbuster season is starting to bloom, and Kitsch again strains a bit to exude enough appeal along with his costars in Asano, Plemons, and a spunky Rihanna. It would have been better for the story to allow Neeson to partake in the action-hero he molded in films like Taken). It's hard not to enjoy how Berg and his crew exact out the CGI spectacle and design with a certain amount of excitement as Hopper and his crew become engaged in perilous exchanges ("J-17...fire!"). Probably not that dissimilar from what kind of on-line thrills gamers have been experiencing in recent product-placement.
Yet, the entire enterprise around the visuals and characters is hard not to view as other than reductive as the alien force field isn't established with much clarity and at least a couple of scenes seem to have been left on the cutting room floor (one connected to an off-screen reeling by Hopper's crew). For those who played the game as kids there may not be quite the payoff, especially when your battleship has the allotment of pegs in it. This overproduced simple-mindedness is probably enough of an undemanding effective adaptation with surprising droll returns when the USS Missouri gets some needed veteran backup.