A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"This could be like Columbus and the Indians," a nerdy radio astronomer worries. "Except we're the Indians." From a powerful transmission facility in Hawaii, he's supervised the transmission of a signal to the Earth-like Planet G in another galaxy, and in no time at all, aliens come calling. Considering that they arrive in weeks, they must have discovered faster-than-light speeds, so it's a little strange that when they arrive they're strictly analog. Their vast warships splash down in the Pacific (except for fragments that devastate Hong Kong in one of those toppling skyscraper scenes so beloved in disaster movies). But these alien crafts are only armed at a level that makes their battle with U.S. warships more or less a standoff.
Why would the U.S. fleet conveniently already be near the splashdown point? It's involved in war games with allies such as Japan, which provides an excuse for a Japanese officer to take temporary command of one of our ships and thus boost the grosses of "Battleship" in Asia. It's also handy that the aliens create a force field that forms an impenetrable barrier around their craft, which seals in three U.S. ships, locks out all other ships and explains why our jets don't simply nuke the SOB.
Of course, in the old B-movie tradition, our response to the alien visit is immediately military. There's not one word of discussion about the aliens possibly just making a social call. We invite them, they come and we open fire. This despite the fact that they're remarkably humanoid; when we finally remove the helmet from one alien's spacesuit, he turns out to look alarmingly like James Carville.
In the set-up, we meet a shiftless beach bum named Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), whose brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) is a naval officer. In a bar, Alex hits on the lithesome Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), who wouldn't you know is the daughter of the admiral of the fleet (Liam Neeson). Breaking into a convenience store to get her a burrito, Alex is arrested and his brother delivers an ultimatum: Join the Navy or else.