Directed by Peter Berg.
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano and Liam Neeson.
A fleet of ships battle an armada of extra-terrestrial origins.
The new film based on a property from the toy company Hasbro, this time the board-game Battleship, has finally been released and, well, it’s something alright...
Okay, so during routine naval exercises, the USS John Paul Jones, under command of renegade naval officer Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch; John Carter), comes into contact with strange alien vessels off the coast of Hawaii. With the support of a gang of kooky crewmembers (including musician Rihanna in her acting debut) and Vice Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson; Wrath of the Titans), will Hopper be able to defeat the aliens and save the world?
Despite the seemingly simple plot, Battleship actually has some interesting plot points and ideas, such as the appearance and nature of the aliens and the tactics the navy develop to fight this new threat. The motivation for why the aliens are on earth is never explained and only hinted at, which adds some much needed intrigue and mystery to the antagonists.
I can’t say as much for the protagonists. While the characterizations aren’t as bland as in, say, the Transformers movies, the characters aren’t given much to do, except for shout at each other and look confused. Rihanna and Liam Neeson are woefully underused, while Tadanobu Asano (Thor) gets some great lines as Captain Nagata. On the other hand, Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) produces some absolutely awful acting as Hopper’s incredibly intense older brother, although his over the top delivery did generate some laughter. Worse still is Kitsch himself. Unlike Sam Worthington, who’s just uncharismatic as a leading man, Kitsch is actually unlikeable. His character is an arrogant jerk and a great deal of the film is focused on trying to teach him humility. While it is immensely satisfying to see Kitsch literally getting kicked in the face, dozens if not hundreds of characters have to drown or die for him to learn a lesson.
To distract us from Kitsch, thankfully, are the action scenes. The graphics are top notch and the explosions are big. Most people expected this to be similar to Transformers, but it’s actually closer to Independence Day and the scenes of destruction (mixed in with product placement from Subway and Coca-Cola) are on scale with a Roland Emmerich feature. The combat segment between the alien ships and naval craft are really engaging and inventive, with plenty of allusions to the original board-game, but there’s one problem... navy ships are kind of boring. Slow moving, grey coloured metal boats aren’t easy to identify with, and during one early action scene between three navy destroyers and three alien craft , keeping track of who is on what ship and which is under attack is surprisingly difficult.
While all the sea shenanigans are going on, there is a fascinating subplot featuring Hopper’s girlfriend (model Brooklyn Decker) as a physiotherapist who works with wounded soldiers, including real life double leg amputee Colonel Gregory Gadson, as they fight the aliens invading the mainland. This subplot explores how victims of war deal with their injuries, trying to find their place in the world, as Gadson questions who he is now he cannot be a soldier. Battleship is very patriotic (almost too much) and pays a great deal of respect to war veterans, to the point that it becomes a plot point near the end.
I have to say I did appreciate Battleship. Even though I dislike the Kitsch and the running time is far too long (nothing happens for the first twenty minutes, and I was exhausted by the time the third act kicked in), it’s an enjoyable, silly action movie with some good action and graphics. It’s also very funny, but not for good reasons: some of the situations are ridiculous and convoluted, and the dialogue is treated way too seriously with awful, overly stern delivery, while the scenes that are meant to be funny are just embarrassing for all involved. On the other hand, there are ships, there are battles, and I left the cinema entertained.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ** / Movie ***
Luke Graham is a writer and graduate. If you enjoyed this review, follow him @LukeWGraham and check out his blog here.