It's general low rating notwithstanding, I actually enjoyed watching "American Warships." Recently I watched the movie "Battleship." It's a big budget blockbuster that has roughly the same storyline - an old American warship forced into battle with aliens. "American Warships," however, is much more exciting and even more "believable" - to the extent that any movie of this kind can be believable.
Here, the primary warship is the World War II vintage USS Iowa, commanded by Captain Winston (played by Mario Van Peebles.) The Iowa is about to be retired and turned into a museum, and it's on its way to the US from a good will visit to South Korea, when first a South Korean island and then the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier group (also in the area) is mysteriously destroyed. Was it the North Koreans? The Chinese? No one knows, and the Iowa sets off to investigate, while the United States prepares to fight World War III. The attacks continue on various military targets, the tension ramps, a nuclear attack by the US on China (and a return attack by China on the US) is imminent, with only the Iowa (who have now figured out what's happening) standing in the way. The attackers are aliens, trying to goad the world into a nuclear war so that they can take over. The aliens also seemed far more threatening here than in "Battleship."
Basically I liked this. It's pretty exciting and tense all the way through. Van Peebles was not too bad as the Captain of the Iowa, and while having a WWII era ship beating powerful aliens in "Battleship" made little sense, in this there was a plausible (sort of anyway) explanation as to why that type of warship could succeed in such a battle - the aliens basically knocking out integrated electrical systems to facilitate their attacks (systems that weren't around in World War II) so that the Iowa had the ability to survive the aliens' most powerful advantage.
Now, there are some problems I admit. First, by the time this was over I was getting very tired of the "Star Trek" type references. We heard about cloaking devices, and ships that had to "de-cloak" before they could fire. There were references to phasers and Klingons (not to mention the fact that the aircraft carrier destroyed was the Enterprise, and the main American ship was the Iowa - where Captain Kirk was supposedly born.) All that was a little too much in your face. I liked Van Peebles, but I thought the rest of the performances were perhaps a bit uneven (and I wasn't impressed with David Polinsky as Admiral Hollis.) I also didn't think that there was any reason for having a romance between Winston and Lt. Bradley (Johanna Watts.) I also found it passing strange that the aliens, who supposedly wanted to provoke a nuclear war, would destroy two of the American bomber groups that had been sent off to be prepared to attack China? Isn't that defeating their own purposes? At least I couldn't figure that out. The closing captions of the movie suggest that this is based on a congressional act passed in 2006 retiring the Iowa but making sure that it would remain battle ready, even as it serves as a museum. So the question is: "why keep an old warship battle ready?" This is the supposed answer.
Overall, though, I thought this was a pretty exciting and enjoyable movie, much better than its reviews would suggest.
Review by sddavis63 from the Internet Movie Database.