You sunk my movie: Why the board game-inspired ‘Battleship’ flopped

Aliza Weinberger

I have to wonder who came up with the idea for a Battleship movie. Was it a team of Hasbro executives trying to find a new way to make money from the outdated board game? Or was there a film executive forced into a family game night who decided it would be a lot more fun if he added explosions? Either way, this is one movie that never needed to get made. The basic premise for Battleship goes far beyond the source material. The movie follows a group of naval officers who are stopped during a series of war games off the coast of Hawaii when aliens crash-land into the Pacific Ocean. If the plot sounds ridiculous, that is because it is. The movie is over two hours long and feels endless. The first half is bogged down with useless exposition about the pseudo-science of the movie that no one in their right mind would believe anyway. The film juggles too many plots with too many characters, adding needless runtime in order to try and keep track of all of its moving parts. Even with the added length, the film leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Why did aliens wait so long between attacks? Why would they often not attack humans directly but still kill them in droves? And why would you hire Liam Neeson for an action movie but only put him in three scenes? Yes, despite having one of this generation’s greatest action stars, Liam Neeson is barely featured in the film. The same is true for Alexander Skarsgard. Instead, the film focuses on Taylor Kitsch as a protagonist, who shifts over time from a bumbling idiot to a lucky idiot that manages to somehow save the world. There are some amusing minor characters, among them singer Rihanna in her acting debut as naval officer Raikes who gets to shoot off most of the weapons in the film with one-liners such as, “Boom.” The general tone of the acting in the movie is one of little emotion, most likely because the cast is almost entirely meant to be in the Navy and at war. But their attempt at stoicism just seems like bad acting. The second half of the film is more entertaining than the first. It contains the only scene that connects to the original board game: with their radar equipment down, the Navy must use water displacement information on a grid in order to track the enemy ships. The bit is maybe 10 minutes long and does not actually include a battleship, but it serves as the only reference to Hasbro’s game. However, in a desperate final move, the Navy does bring an out-of-date battleship into use. Though no one says the line “you sunk my battleship,” someone does growl, “They won’t sink this battleship,” creating comedy that was most likely not intended by the action film. The movie, which features actual veterans playing veterans, does carry a message of support and heroism for elderly and injured servicemen. But because the scenes of veterans at war come off as comical, that possible saving grace of the film fails. Though it is certainly possible to make a good movie based on a board game, such as the comedy classic Clue, Battleship is as far removed from a “good movie” as a film can be. -Aliza Weinberger