Given that Peter Berg’s movie Battleship is based on a Hasbro board game about blowing things up it was never going to be a particularly clever film. It was always going to be centred on, well… blowing things up. However, low expectations aside, one hopes it’s a success so in the future we can look forward to Guess Who? The Movie or Articulate: the HBO drama.
In Battleship, Earth brings upon itself an invasion by a race of lizard-like aliens, who have the technology to destroy the world for reasons unknown, trapping the free world’s navies in a force field, blowing them up, and then contact home for reinforcements. Into this carnage comes maverick naval officer Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), his girlfriend Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) and other characters including Cora Raikes (Rihanna). Against the odds, these are the people who have to save the world as other action heroes have before them; this time, by playing a giant version of a kids’ board game.
The CGI is impressive but as the crashes, bangs and wallops have got more spectacular, these types of films have gone backwards. Independence Day (1996) may have smashed up the White House but it also took the time to make us care about Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum’s characters.
Battleship, however, does not. And after a few promising opening scenes – including an amusing quest for a chicken burrito – it becomes clear that Battleship is just a CGI-, alien-focused film and the characters are not properly introduced to the audience. For example, Samantha and Alex go from drunkenly meeting at a bar to discussing marriage in the space of five minutes on-screen.
There are a few mitigating factors though; many of the actors are likeable screen presences: Kitsch is charismatic and Liam Neeson does a typically stern turn as a Vice Admiral and Samantha’s father. Rihanna is so hopelessly miscast as a weapons expert that it’s amusing rather than annoying. Compared to the likes of Shia LaBeouf in Hasbro’s other toy-to-film franchise, Transformers, the acting on display could be from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The film can also be charmingly daft to the point of being laugh-out-loud funny: when we realise that the US Navy really is going to play Battleship with aliens or a scene where gnarled US Navy veterans returning to serve is so excessively patriotic that an admittedly British audience howled with laughter.
These moments make you think that perhaps Berg is playing an elaborate Snakes On A Plane(2006)-style prank; that having seen the script, those involved decided that there was no way to make the film sensibly so decided to take the mickey out of Hollywood’s worst excesses.
Yet the funny moments are too few, and the rest of the film too baggy to give it anything more than a fleeting charm. This is a shame because when the film does indulge itself in its own silliness it is entertaining; Battleship shows that with a bit more comedy and character, making a movie like this could actually work.
Do these things make Battleship so bad it’s good? The answer is no; it may not be as poisonously awful, pornographic and soulless as the Transformers franchise and have enough humour to occasionally entertain, but the fact that this can be mentioned in its favour is more a sign of the dire state of big-budget action movies than any kind of a genuine recommendation.
Battleship was released in the UK on 11th April 2012.
Watch the trailer of Battleship here