Battleship (2012)

Battleship (2012)

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"This is supposed to be based on a board game, right?"
“This is supposed to be based on a board game, right?”

Twitter Plot Summary: Alien invaders land in Earth’s oceans and a plucky group of sailors must play Battleship to fight them off.

Five Point Summary:

1. Liam Neeson. Nice to see you for five whole minutes.
2. That guy with no legs couldn’t look more bored if he tried.
3. The barrier comes down.
4. Using an advanced sonar tracking system, which the aliens don’t notice. Hmm.
5. D4… you have sunk my battleship!

Battleship opens with a scene that uses some genuine scientific theory to back up the reason for our alien overlords invading our oceans and sets up a flimsy excuse to adapt a board game that doesn’t exactly lend itself to a film treatment. It does then of course degrade very quickly into silliness, some ill judged humour involving the Pink Panther theme and a break-in at a local minimart do little to inspire confidence in a film that’s already up against it for being based on a Hasbro board game.

In a poor metaphor for the conflict and distrust between the United States and Japan that emanated from the Pacific Theatre in WW2, the crews take part in a football tournament that also acts as yet another example of how American filmmakers, on the whole, have no idea what football (read: soccer) is all about. Soon it degrades even further into silliness as aliens crash in the Pacific Ocean (and a few much smaller locations) and it’s over to Taylor Kitsch and his older brother Alexander Sarsgard to bicker for a while about growing up and being responsible for your actions – a lesson that one of them will surely learn before the end credits roll.

Whilst it’s clear that Liam Neeson is taking on every film role offered to him these days, the casting of Rihanna raises immediate question marks and screams of stunt casting. As it happens she isn’t too bad even if there is almost no depth given to her character. Or, indeed, anybody else’s. In other areas there’s the obligatory swimwear model and an emotionless black man (ironic given that he’s supposed to be angry about losing his legs – although he’s an actual veteran so whilst critical of his performance, his dedication to duty isn’t in question) who encounter the alien invaders on land. Seriously, isn’t this film called Battleship?

Not Penny's boat.
Not Penny’s boat.

Well yes, because in the second half of the film they start playing a lifesize version of the board game in a bid to defeat the alien invaders. If you thought the preceding 70 minutes of build-up were silly then that’s nothing compared to seeing military folks firing missiles at grid references in the vain hope that they will get a “hit” on an alien vessel. This is perhaps not as silly as the appearance of the aliens, who all look like slightly taller versions of Anthrax’s Scott Ian.

The deference to the US military (in all its forms, although in this case specifically the Navy) is abundantly clear and the finale, whilst still verging on the ludicrous, manages to give the audience a surge of excitement despite what they may think of the rest of the film. It still doesn’t excuse it from being a hideous CGI-filled monstrosity, however. The best way to approach Battleship is to think of it as a water-based version of Independence Day, minus the fun factor and the trifecta of Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Will Smith. There’s a hefty influence from Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise as well, just in case you needed another excuse not to watch this. The links to the board game are tenuous and presented in an increasingly daft manner. In fact it would be better to have based it on similar board game Torpedo Run. It then raises the question as to what board game will be adapted for film next. Hungry Hippos: The Movie?

Score: 2/5

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