Battleship blows… everything up
If the above sounds like a good time, then Battleship just be the film you’re looking for. The latest mind-boggling toy cash in from Hasbro takes the concept of the classic board game, straps it to a muthaf’n missile and shoots it at a giant-ass alien spaceship. Director Peter Berg, having been mutated with the genes of both Michael Bay and JJ Abrams, captains this ship into over over-produced waters with Taylor “John Carter” Kitsch as his cabin boy, errr, leading man.
Battleship gets any trace of plot out of the way early on as the Hopper brothers are introduced. Alexander Skarsgard’s Stone is the responsible Navy captain who drags his younger, slacker brother Alex (Kitsch) into service with him. During this progression Brooklyn Decker’s character Samantha is introduced in the most insignificant way possible. Skipping ahead, Sam and Alex, now a trouble-makin’ sailor, are looking to get hitched. Unfortunately an alien invasion throws a slight monkey wrench into their plans. To give some credit where it’s due, this instance of first contact is set up throughout the opening act and is random only in the fact that the aliens motivations are never explored. For storyline purposes these creatures exist solely to blow ships up. Indeed, they do so with considerable aplomb as their aqua friendly spacecraft packs some heavy firepower along with some fiercely destructive terror balls (for lack of a better term) that rip through anything in their path. The explosive effects are impressive initially, but by the time Battleship heads into its second hour, the constant and rather purposeless booming of fireballs becomes utterly tedious.
The plot, as such there is, consists of little more than Alex being responsible for finding a way to stop the alien crafts from destroying earth. Cue endless fireballs and missile attacks, bathed in blue lens flare throughout. Yes, Battleship is one tacky piece of film-making. Much of the dialogue is lost beneath waves of explosions and the outdated rock music that often accompanies them. Of course, this is no great loss, as much of what is spoken is meaningless or downright embarrassing. When Hamish Linklater’s geeky technician reacts to the appearance of artificially limbed Mick (real life Iraq was vet Gregory D Gadson who lost both his legs in 2007) with a terrified “Are you a cyborg?” it comes across as crass, at best. There is a plethora of lines that would be easily categorised as either pointless or absurd, and that’s just of the lot that are decipherable. The acting is fairly spotty, unsurprisingly. Liam Neeson turns up early on to lend some credibility to the proceedings, reappearing infrequently beyond act one. Meanwhile, Kitsch displays the same level of charisma and appeal that anchored his doomed Disney flop. And then there’s Rihanna, whose presence can only be explained as an active attempt to nullify the credibility attached to Neeson. As Raikes, Rihanna has little more to do than fire a lot of weaponry while attempting to be sassy. There is no depth to the character and Rihanna fails to establish any presence amongst the actual actors. It’s impossible to argue that this casting choice was anything beyond a gimmick.
Despite all the aforementioned problems, Battleship could have been decent fun if it didn’t take itself so damn seriously. Berg and Co. manage to include a grid and coordinate based attack system, but do so with a straight face. They take shots at their own cheesy, unnatural dialogue and then revert back to using those same types of contrived lines. The Metroid meets Mass Effect-like aliens are single-minded whilst sporting odd, prickly goatees. The viewer is meant to care about characters they never actually get to know, despite spending a solid two hours with them. By comparison, Titantic, another film about a sinking ship, was a massive, global success- not because the ship went down, but because the audience was given reasons to care about the characters on-board whose lives were in peril. In Peter Berg’s world, it would simply be enough to blow the ship to pieces. Still, the most damning example of how Battleship simply fails at being fun is the fact that at no point is the essential phrase “You sunk my battleship” proclaimed.
For two hours Battleship blasts eardrums and eyeballs with one giant, over-blown set piece posing as a movie. With identity-less characters babbling trite lines as endless ships are blown up, whatever novelty the film has wears off quickly. This blockbuster is spectacle without any sign of soul. Battleship, a film that nearly makes Transformers look Shakespearean in comparison, deserves a quick burial at sea. 4/10