Oli Templeton, 8:00 am, Saturday, 26 May, 2012Follow @TheWestLondoner
Three Stars: ***
Naval Nonsense Fails To Score A Direct Hit
You can never expect much from a film which is based on a board game, and toy manufacturer Hasbro’s foray onto the big screen is no exception. Beginning with a ridiculous introduction and ending with a ridiculous finale, perhaps a film which is too ridiculous for words should have been expected.
A Fouled Anchor
A shame though, since some of the concepts had the potential to work well. The origin of the alien menace is actually addressed (as opposed to being from an unknown part of the galaxy) and based on the real-life Gliese star system, which has actual Earth-like planets. With the potential to harbour life, and at a mere 20 light years away (meaning if they left now they could still invade in your life-time), it does make you think. Of course, then the movie starts and not a lot of thinking happens.
Any serious sentiments are buried from the beginning…as soon as the protagonist appears on screen, in fact. Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) goes from a drunk drop-out who thinks stealing a burrito in order to pick up a hot chick is a good idea to an officer in the United States Navy who is late for important events – in the blink of an eye. Just like that!
Remarkable really, because seeing as no respectable Navy wants Captain Clot representing them (he fails in many ways, including not knowing how to kick a football) I would consider this as less credible than an actual alien invasion!
At no point did I think that Hopper was not an idiot! Yes, I realise that he was meant to be a bungling too-cool-for-school sort of officer, but it was just embarrassing to watch. It’s not like the film was supposed to be a comedy!
As for the rest of this sorry crew of characters…well, they all seemed to be victims of a charisma enema! Ironically, one of the better actors was not even an actor! Rihanna did carry off the image of a hardened naval gunner pretty well and Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) deserves a mention. Sadly, Neeson turned out to be more of an A-list lure for audiences; he gets a limited amount of screen time, and is consigned to the back burner for much of the film.
Big Guns Galore
I must admit, it is a hearty feast of action and explosions and there are some beautiful scenes which were probably the main reason why people bought their tickets in the first place.
The whole “Battleships!” game motif is justified in a fairly clever way (and I’m not referring to the peg-shaped artillery shells), with one scene using a particularly inventive strategy (thought up by their Japanese colleagues, I might add), although this is quite sensibly kept brief. It would have tired quite quickly had it been over-used. Another scene sees some brutal pulse-pounding sniper rifle action against an aggressor ship.
It was also a joy to hear missile-chomping mini-guns actually sounding like mini-guns. So many films neglect the fact that they don’t go ch-ch-ch-ch-ch, they go brrrrrrrrp!
But elsewhere there is a major lack of imagination. The creature design is hardly original, with the aliens resembling reptilian humans clad in mechanical suits; were you to walk in half-way through you might even think you were watching HALO the movie.
The rest of their arsenal also seems to be borrowed, with a target recognition system uncannily similar to the one used in the Predator films, and Terminator-esque balls of merciless metal which fly around eating up helicopters and other bits of military hardware.
Too Ridiculous For Words
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of Battleship is how it could have easily been a semi-serious sci-fi spectacle; perhaps nothing award-winning, but still, an Independence Day or Battlefield: LA of the seas would have had its place. Instead, it purposely dives into an ocean of lampooning more reminiscent of one of the sketches from Seth Green’s Robot Chicken. By the time the super-cheesy finale arrives, which is as cringe-worthy as Kenan Thompson’s landing of a 747 in Snakes On A Plane, they might as well all be shouting: “America! Fuck yeah!” Of course, only an American film industry could have produced this.