Battleship Review: Boys Toys & Aliens

BATTLESHIP (12A): On General Release Wednesday 11th April

Aliens are about to destroy the planet and a young maverick who’s one step away from being chucked out of the Navy is the last remaining officer left on the fleet’s last ship. As he sits with his head in his hands bemoaning his luck, a sailor approaches him.. “If not you, then who sir?” he says. Who indeed.

Believe it or not, this little screenwriting gem comes about half way down the list of ridiculous lines from Battleship (others include “Let’s see if we can buy the world one more day” and “I’m the idiot who’s going to kick the ball through your goalkeeper’s face” – there’s a football match, don’t ask) ..yet for all the cheesy actioner-schlock, this is rather enjoyable tongue-in-cheek fare.

It may look like the kind of big-dumb project that Dwayne Johnson wouldn’t be seen dead near – and some of the time it is – but with a touch of charm, pace and wit, Peter Berg has created something sharper and funnier than many will give him credit for. It might occasionally trip itself up with brainless cliche and the extra-terrestrials themselves are the nicest bunch to ever try and exterminate our race (Hang on. Has this just been one massive misunderstanding?!) yet it still manages to torpedo a few film genres while serving up some truly breathtaking special effects. If any film goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, it’s Battleship, but for my money it deserves the benefit of any doubt on its balls and work-rate alone. Plus with aliens, WW2 gunships, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, self-deprecation and Hawaii all on the check-list, what’s not to like?

As you’ve no doubt guessed, the crux of this whole glammed-up action sci-fi revolves around nasty space-invaders receiving a message from earth and coming to wipe us out with their devilishly fearsome and spectacular technology. The film rips off other movies by the dozen (ET, Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, Titanic, Top Gun, I could keep going..) and as such, there’s soon an Independence Day-style forcefield in play. The aliens always have a forcefield, but they never have guts, stupidity and a penchant for over-coming odds when the music starts to play. Which brings us on to Lt. Hopper (Taylor Kitsch with a tincture of the late River Phoenix).

During an exercise in the Pacific, three American Destroyers are trapped within the described forcefield, as the aliens – who for some unexplained reason only attack man’s weaponry and not people – try to utilise a satellite dish on a Hawaiian mountain, presumably to call reinforcements. Their communication ship crashed in Hong Kong you see, but we don’t really have time for that set piece. Suffice to say, it’s loud and spectacular. Liam Neeson and the rest of the Navy are stranded outside the perimeter and Hopper and his band of under-qualified but ballsy misfits are left to kick the tyres and light the fires. As it were..

Meanwhile Hopper’s bikini-clad blonde bird is up the aforementioned mountain with Nervous Scientist Guy and Disabled Ex-Marine With A Chip On His Shoulder Guy. As you can probably tell, the whole thing pretty much writes itself from then on in, bar one outrageous stunt involving a clapped out battleship in the final act. I won’t spoil it, but it does speak volumes to say that Rihanna’s bravura barely raises an eyebrow, although that’s probably because the film is basically one big pop video anyway. If this is what a movie which is based on a board-game looks like, then I wouldn’t say no to another. Risk anyone? Someone call Lady Gaga..