Battleship begins with a scene in which a young man breaks into a convenience store in an attempt to steal a chicken burrito for Brooklyn Decker. This scene is set to the Pink Panther theme. Now I know what you're thinking: that I'm going to criticize this scene. You think I'm going to talk about how silly or out of place it is or make some such complaint. Yet I have come not to criticize this scene but to praise it. Why? Because it is a scene, a scene during which something happens, a scene with a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is more than I can say for the middle two hours, yes, two hours, of Battleship. I was going to write "Peter Berg's Battleship" but you know what? I don't think he directed this, or at least most of this. Why?
Well, there really are no scenes in the middle two hours of the movie. The film lists lazily back and forth between Brooklyn Decker hiking in the Hawaiian foliage and a destroyer sailing in circles around an alien craft. It seems as if they filmed without a script for the majority of the shoot because you could cut or rearrange any of what happens without any effect on the story and the dialogue reads like it was written an hour before filming. My guess is the filmmakers shot the finale, rendered the effects shots, edited everything together, shot pickups to fill in what was totally incomprehensible, and lastly padded it with wide shots. In fact there are so many wide, flyover, and effects shots that it doesn't even feel like any people are in the movie. Battleship does not so much feel directed as assembled from 2nd unit material.
The end of the movie is clearly the premise pitched to the produces as well as the only part mapped out in any detail. The gist is, and brace yourselves: the heroes need a ship that can take as much damage as it dishes while engaging the final enemy ship so they turn to the retired Battleship Missouri and re-fit her for combat. Frankly, I think the idea is a hoot and not just because I thought of it many years ago (although I had in mind to use the carrier Intrepid.) The final battle and its preparation are a good deal of fun. I liked the old-timer veterans showing today's crew how to man the ship and the crews straining and sweating to carry the massive shells for the guns. I enjoyed watching the veteran who just regained use of his legs going mano-a-mano with an alien. These brawny scenes (hooray for scenes!) with their rock and roll soundtrack and corny one-liners finally established a tone, and a vigorous and good-natured one at that.
This final scene is fun but any battle scene is only as good as the preparation for it. This can be done with varying degrees of skill and ingenuity, but it has to be done. That the penultimate scene with the veterans is in fact the preparatory scene for the final battle makes the two almost a movie in themselves and shows just how utterly empty are the preceding hours. Battleship is far from the first movie with a simple idea and a lot of padding but seldom has so much of a movie been phoned-in. There is room in the world for light movies and craftsmanship can redeem slight fare, but there is no room for laziness.