Review: Battleship / Cert: 12/ Director: Peter Berg / Screenplay: John Hoeber, Erich Hoeber / Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson / Release Date: August 20th
Any lingering hopes that Peter Berg’s career-torpedoing alien invasion stinker (based on Hasbro’s ‘Battleship’!) might be a bit more tolerable in the privacy of your home and behind closed doors are cruelly dashed as we have to accept that this is a really, really, severely bad film. Starburst has a soft spot for they-come-to-us movies (this reviewer still has to wear a hat labelled ‘unclean’ in public for quite liking The Darkest Hour and Skyline) but Battleship - basically Transformers At Sea but with none of the wit and sophistication of Michael Bay’s rampaging robot franchise - is an invasion too far. This is a film clearly written by idiots for idiots and we’re still not convinced that writers Hoeber and Hoeber aren’t actually a pseudonym for an infinite number of monkeys interrupted in the middle of a fairly major writing project.
But what else could we have been expecting? Battleship is inspired by the simplest of playground games in which participants call out numbers and imaginary warships blow up bit by bit. Not much for even the cleverest of scriptwriters to work with there. So our creative heroes have had to concoct a storyline - big noisy metal aliens invade Earth, that’ll do! - and somewhere along the line some other bright spark decide to crowbar in a couple of visual reference to the game the thing’s supposed to be based on. So we have the alien missiles which look a bit like the pegs used in the physical Battleship game and when they explode they destroy their target section-by-section. Brilliant! Later on someone says something like “they won’t sink my battleship” and that’s about it if you want to see any connection with your favourite old childhood game.
So maybe the film’s populated by really interesting people we can care about and fear and root for. Nope. The first half-hour is beyond tortuous as we meet US Naval officer Alex Hopper (True Blood’s Skarsgard) who tries to salvage his useless laybout brother Stone (Kitsch, John Carter - uh oh) who spends his time drinking beer, chasing girls and breaking into convenience stores. Despite being a complete tool Stone somehow manages to rise to the ranks of Lieutenant but his idiocy is about to get him kicked out of the Navy by Admiral Shane (Neeson) who, unfortunately, is the Dad of the girl Stone would quite like to marry. Fortunately for Stone giant bits of metal crash into the sea before he can be unceremoniously removed from the Navy and soon afterwards metal things are rising out of the water, firing missiles and sending big spinning firewheels into the air to devastate a nearby airbase. So that’s a definite ‘no’ then, it’s not about the characters. Stone deserves a good and constant slapping, his brother’s well out of it quite quickly, Liam Neeson is just in it for the money and Rihanna, as plucky Gunner’s Mate Cora, just gets knocked about a bit (no comment).
It must be the special effects then. Yes, of course they’re astonishing - this film cost about $230 million, they really ought to look astonishing. But they’re also really rather boring; just bits of metal flying about the place, rising up out of the water, trashing things. We’ve seen all this in the Transformers films, amongst others, and even the alien foot soldiers - basically superannuated Cybermen - just resemble humanoid aliens we’ve seen in SF films we’ve already forgotten about. As things blow up - and by God does some stuff blow up in Battleship - it gets harder and harder to remain even remotely interested and ultimately, such is the cacophony and the chaos on the screen it’s hard to work out what’s going on and why, much less care about any of it. The end, when it comes (and fortunately Battleship clocks in at around two hours - about a hundred and ten minutes too long but still mercifully shorter than some other recent self-important blockbusters), is ludicrous and powered by the sort of ferocious jingoism which does American cinema (and America itself) no favours whatsoever.
A horrible, mechanical, soul-sucking experience, Battleship is dull, wretched, worthless twaddle. If you missed it at the cinema - and fortunately, most right-thinking people did - we pretty much order you to keep well away from this Blu-ray/DVD release of quite possibly the worst special effects blockbuster of all time.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes/making of stuff - Preparing for Battle, All hands on Deck (the cast), Engage in Battle, FX, tour round the USS Missouri. Everyone seems very pleased with what they’ve done, a bit like a small child who’s done a really big poo all on their own for the first time.