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What Can History Tell Us About ‘Battleship 2?’

Universal Pictures

Two movies opened over the weekend that co-star Brooklyn Decker and are based on unlikely source material, but while ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ offers nothing interesting ‘Battleship’ offers tons of things to consider between all the explosions and jingoist naval porn. It’s actually disappointing that more moviegoers in the U.S. aren’t appreciating it.

Seriously, the emptier the narrative, the easier it is for the mind to wander, and the plot of ‘Battleship’ is as vacant as a “mothball fleet” of unused military vessels. So we contemplated the possible (though now unlikely) sequel that could occur given the setup provided by Peter Berg’s alien invasion movie.

Looking at history for examples, it could go two different ways, though only one is logical: the aliens keep coming, and within a few hundred years humans are nearly extinct, with those spare remainders living in poverty on reservations.

Yes, just like last year’s ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ ‘Battleship’ involves an allegory for the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere where humans as a whole take the place of the Indians. The comparison is even noted in the movie, addressing the theory that extraterrestrials visiting Earth will most likely be here to scope out resources and colonization potential. Unlike the faux white guilt of ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ however, this one really means to align the heroes with the indigenous victims of yore. I see no coincidence in the choice to make the aliens in this movie look like literally white men.

But don’t we win in the end? This time, yes, but that only makes ‘Battleship’ like a retelling of the possible story of the lost colony of Roanoke. Recall this first English settlement of 1885, from which all colonists mysteriously disappeared, theoretically at the hands of the natives (this is now not the most popular explanation, but it was the one we heard as a kid). The vanishing didn’t deter others from coming over to America, and you can bet the alien race of ‘Battleship’ will only be more interested in sending an even larger fleet of ships after losing the first party.

The idea is common with alien invasion movies that an Earthling victory is merely a premature happy ending. What probably occurs after the credits of ‘Battleship’ is the same as what we’ve thought in the past with ‘Independence Day’ and others. Aliens with such advanced technology are sure to return for revenge and in massive numbers. It’s for the best that ‘Battleship 2’ will not be greenlit given the first movie’s box office, and let’s hope there’s never actually an ‘ID4-2’ as was recently planned, because such sequels are sure to be apocalyptic downers if done realistically.

Unless, somehow, the other major historical allusion of ‘Battleship’ could hold up. Whereas the Roanoke connection is presumably unintended, the movie’s interest in the Pearl Harbor attack is most certainly not. Obviously there is some purpose in having the aliens come down upon Hawaii, and many of the sequences in which their wheel-like missiles strike at military bases on land are reminiscent of parts of Michael Bay’s ‘Pearl Harbor’ movie (if not also the real thing). The movie even begins with a scrimmage between the U.S. military and the Japanese, just to make sure we have World War II on the brain.

A sequel adhering to the allegory of Pearl Harbor would consist of Earth going to war with whatever planet those aliens came from, with most of the battles happening between here and there, though an initial raid would be mounted on the planet’s soil. That could be a cool movie, but it wouldn’t have much to do with the board game (although Hasbro does now make a game called ‘Battleship Galaxies,’ which could be of service) and, more importantly, Earth doesn’t have the technology yet to go on the offense in outer space.

Maybe that’s exactly the movie’s point in the end, that we need to build an intergalactic fleet or at least maintain military funding to head in that direction. Never mind that due to titular obligation the climax turns to an antiquated vessel to defeat the aliens. The real idea there is the old sailors and soldiers that knew how to properly defend America. Having a hero that is undisciplined and undependable and who even literally loses a metaphorical match against the Japanese is to say, this is where too much of the U.S. is at now, unfit to win WWII if it happened today.

‘Battleship’ isn’t a Navy recruitment ad; it’s a broader propaganda for the world to preemptively arm up in anticipation of the next-level war. Ironically, in looking at the box office numbers, the U.S. may be the country paying the least attention.

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