Battleship (2012)

17 Apr

Haters will decry Peter Berg’s Battleship as a Michael Bay-esque monstrosity that panders unapologetically to the lowest common denominator, much like Bay’s heinous destruction of the good name Transformer. That would do a disservice to Berg’s picture, which whilst undeniably stupid and utterly over the top is by no means as bad as Bay’s pantheon of crap. In fact the biggest crime that can be levelled at Battleship is that it lacks one single original idea in its bloated 131 minute running time.

Pearl Harbour with aliens or Independence Day on water are just two incredibly apt descriptors of what Battleship has to offer. And boasting Halo type aliens, the standard Armageddon destruction of a major city (this time Hong Kong) and filial bickering that is reminiscent of Top Gun’s Maverick and Ice Man, it’s evident that the idea of basing a film on an 80-year-old strategy game is about as novel as it gets. Even the vaguely humorous burrito based prologue that introduces our hero Alex Hopper (serviceable action man Taylor Kitsch) as he tries to impress a girl, Admiral’s daughter Samantha (a wooden Brooklyn Decker) is lifted almost directly from this brilliant clip.

Said nonsense takes place in 2006, when slacker bum Hopper is living on clean-cut Navy bro Stone’s (Alexander Skarsgard) couch, wasting his life and lacking direction. You get the picture. Meanwhile, an ill-advised alien contact ‘Beacon’ project is sending messages to deep space in a portentous move that can only end badly.

Fast forward to the present day and with Alex enlisted in the Navy and shacked up with Samantha, it’s cue archaic jingoism as we’re introduced to rival US and Japanese navy boys as they duke it out on the football field prior to the ludicrously monikered RIMPAC war games in the idyllic seas off Hawaii.


A clunky screenplay that strives for a blend of comic action fails spectacularly, primarily because Erich and Jon Hoeber’s dialogue is just not very funny and their extensive scene setting gets in the way of the inevitable arrival of the alien scout party. Their crash landing is however well worth the wait, with the epic destruction of Hong Kong proving a visual treat and an aural assault.

With the remainder of the alien party firmly ensconced in Pacific waters, it’s not long before we’re embroiled in the targeted and sustained explosive destruction of all manner of naval hardware. Whilst the motives of the aliens are never explored, they are given an uneven ride, at once systematically and indiscriminately killing thousands of sailors and then the next moment avoiding taking a human life in a fudged attempt at humanising the alien threat.

Kitsch and co are given little leeway by the cliché ridden script, which requires the delivery of some of the tritest dialogue since, well Armageddon actually. Decker is so utterly stiff that it’s a miracle she wasn’t stripped, varnished and utilised as a plank to patch up a poop deck somewhere and her superfluous sub plot, which essentially involves walking up and down a mountain with a legless war vet Canales (double amputee Gregory Gadson) is painful to watch at times, particularly when scientist Cal (Hamish Linklater) has the gall to mistake Canales for a cyborg. Yes really.

Meanwhile, pandering to action movie conventions, Hopper has to team up with rival Japanese Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) to defeat a common enemy and yes we are even treated to a literal game of battleships, replete with hits and misses, for, well you know the lols.

And there’s still time for some typically crass American posturing, a hackneyed twist involving some old timers and for Hopper and Nagata to share a Jack and Rose moment. And it would be amiss of me not to mention Rihanna, who whilst not completely dreadful as Raikes, does little to suggest that she’ll be hanging up her umbrella for good just yet.

Battleship is big, brash and unabashedly idiotic, wholly unoriginal and so loud there’s a good chance that you’ll develop tinnitus, but that said, it’s not entirely terrible. Yes it’s overlong, yes the script stinks the place out and yes some of the acting is woeful, but somehow it’s sort of a fun ride and visually it’s pretty epic; although there are only so many times you can watch things blow up before it gets tired. In better hands, we’d be talking about Battleship in the same breath as the likes of Independence Day, so it’s just a shame that this summer blockbuster lacks any semblance of that film’s discernible charm.

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