Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Hamish Linklater
Synopsis: Loosely based on the Hasbro game of the same name, this film sees aliens come to Earth in response to a signal that we sent, and they are not here to swap recipes for chilli con carne! Oh yeah, and the attack happens on water so there are ships that, you know, go into battle.
Having been a long time subscriber to Empire Magazine, I was offered the opportunity to view an advance screening of Battleship this evening. Yes, absolutely free. Except for the major hidden cost… that being my time!
Okay, perhaps having that as my starting comment is being a little too harsh, given that the only starting point the makers had was a game where you shout grid references at an opponent, and that is most famous for the cry of “You sunk my Battleship!” However, the film that was hung on these bare bones does not offer a lot that has not been seen before. Having the major villains be aliens seems to come from nowhere, and is not needed when you consider the type of drama that could already be elicited from naval warfare. Hornblower never once had to combat E.T. for his adventures to seem interesting.
I also could not help that a lot of the alien effects, though expertly executed, reminded me of some of my favourite video game franchises. For instance, I challenge any X-box owner to look at the image on the above poster and NOT think of Spartan Armour. Similarly, the beacon which Earth creates to communicate with aliens reminds me a bit too much of the activated Crucible in Mass Effect 3. Not only were the alien images extremely derivative, but so was a lot of the plot. You may have read elsewhere some surprises exist in the plot, and this is actually quite true. However, these are saved for the last, admittedly thrilling, 20 minutes of the film. It is a struggle to get there, and the run time could have been shorter, but the ending itself increased my rating from a 1 to a 2.5.
As for the acting, no-one really stands out, except perhaps of course Neeson, who can often be the best part of any film he is in. Kitsch had both John Carter and this film open in quick succession, and though he isn’t bad, he doesn’t really grab me as brilliant either. Amidst so much mediocrity, Rihanna does quite well, but to tell if she can cut it as an actress, it would be interesting to see if she can handle meatier material. Kudos however for her choosing an acting role that does not rely on her phenomenal pipes, however. Only one subplot stood out for me, and that was the one featuring former model Decker. An early bikini scene had me groaning, however after that her role as a physical therapist helping a man who lost both legs in combat really sparks, and perhaps is the strongest story in the film. This also has the best comic relief in the form of a scientist (Linklater) that joins them who, though connected to the E.T. communication project, is so in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are other comic moments, especially when the ship has to target “beta one one”, or B11, and when there is actually a genuine Battleship in the film as opposed to a destroyer, there is some fantastic stuff. In truth, the film works best in the moments that it does not take itself too seriously. Otherwise, it gets bogged down in trying to be a relevant worthy picture, that is just simply boring.
There are worse ways to kill two hours, and it is a film that comes home strong. Just have a strong coffee to avoid falling asleep in the first four fifths of the film.
2.5 stars out of 5