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Battleship - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

PETER Berg takes the summer blockbuster to a new level of dumb with Battleship, a technically impressive popcorn offering that’s still sunk by some strange narrative choices.

Inspired by the Hasbro board game of the same name but more derivative of the film’s of Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon, etc) Battleship follows a tried and tested formula for success that isn’t without crowd-pleasing moments.

But for all the spectacle and gung-ho, jingoistic rhetoric, it has very little new to bring to a genre that is rapidly becoming over-worked. Given the access Berg was granted to the US Navy (and some of the footage he has come back with) that feels like a missed opportunity.

The plot follows an unfocused no-hoper named Hopper (John Carter‘s Taylor Kitsch) as he is reluctantly enlisted into the Navy by his brother (Alexander Skaarsgard) in a last ditch effort to give his life purpose.

Still unable to get his act together, owing to a hot-headed ability to screw up, Hopper eventually incurs the wrath of an admiral (Liam Neeson) whose daughter (Brooklyn Decker) he intends to marry and is faced with being kicked out of the Navy until he gets his shot at redemption when aliens invade the waters surrounding Hawaii and he is forced to step up and save the day.

At the same time, his land-based girlfriend finds herself in the middle of the chaos while guiding a disabled an amputee veteran (real-life US Army Colonel Greg Gadson) back towards rehab.

Admittedly, Berg’s film works hard early on to establish a set of characters worth rooting for while creating a credible ‘what if?’ scenario for why the aliens arrive on Earth (using Stephen Hawking’s Goldlilocks planets theory as inspiration). But even so, he still makes a number of bad decisions involving them.

The sub-plot involving Decker and Gadson is uninteresting and continually detracts from the main action going on at sea, while also coming at the expense of the far more interesting likes of Skaarsgard and Neeson, whose scenes with Kitsch are genuinely fun but limited.

Various other members of Hopper’s crew are surplus to requirements, too, and more annoying than welcome.

For his part, Kitsch acquits himself well in the Maverick-style role (perfected by Tom Cruise in Top Gun) and remains a likeable presence throughout, while Rihanna does OK in a role that doesn’t stretch her too much.

But another of the film’s problems lies with the aliens, who never possess sufficient threat to make their downfall seem anything but inevitable. Or maybe it’s that we struggle to care given the ‘been there, seen it before’ nature of this side of things.

That’s not to say Berg’s film doesn’t deliver on some level. The initial stand-off and trading of blows between the Navy and the aliens is suitably tense and spectacular, while Berg also brings the board game element cleverly into a later game of cat and mouse using radar (keep a close eye, too, on the aliens’ choice of missile).

He also makes good use of his spectacular Hawaiian locations and the Navy footage he has acquired, which frequently offers more to excite than some of the effects!

The longer things last, however, the more ludicrous they become, which sort of affords it a kind of ‘just go with it’ element of fun that should appease the target audience but which still allows some of the tub-thumping to become a little over-cooked.

If you can cast the flaws overboard, this is every bit as silly as the recent likes of the original Transformers and Cowboys & Aliens, albeit not quite as good as either.

But the flaws still outweigh the positives and, overall, the film struggles to overcome the fact that it is both inspired by a board-game and also content to borrow from other genre pics.

Berg may argue that the Navy element gives it something unique, which is true, but he hasn’t done enough with it to make Battleship really stand out on its own as a genre-bender.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: April 11, 2012