There are a few things that just don’t translate well into film. One, for example, is two adolescent boys yelling ‘hit’ and ‘miss’ across the room as they shoot imaginary torpedoes at imaginary battleships.
Of course, nothing livens up an antique board game like a few Halo inspired aliens – in other words, if you found Transformers just a touch too subtle, Battleship might
just be your kind of film.
Even dispensing with the ridiculous premise and painfully bloated run time, the movie simply can’t generate enough enough thrills out of its aquatic interplanetary warfare, instead recycling the same blurry effects and busy action through a disappointingly limited number of set pieces.
The first act is dragged out unnecessarily, seemingly intent on establishing what prove to be one-dimensional characters. Our central protagonist, Alex (Taylor Kitsch), is a hotheaded rebel loaded with potential but without moral fiber, Liam Neeson is a snarling cartoon, while Brooklyn Decker is little more than a walking pair of breasts.
But even after the 40 minutes it takes to establish that, there is really nothing new being offered. Its alien design steals from Halo and Green Lantern, the script comes straight from Independence Day, and by the time they copy Transformers, Terminator and Predator, it’s just plain sad. When they copy Titanic and Space Cowboys, it’s downright depressing.
There is one scene of combat that admittedly does work, even if only for the sheer hilarity of it all; when the humans realise their radar system is worthless against the aliens, they are forced to draw up a grid – just like the original Hasbro game – to locate and fire at the invaders.
Rihanna even shouts co-ordinates out, and it actually seems intentionally hilarious without being soul-crushingly stupid.
And this is a film that is self-aware of how completely ridiculous the whole thing is. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and offers enough humour to lighten the mood without distracting from the central ‘plot’, i.e. explosive action and gratuitous special effects.
Of course, had Liam Neeson been given the opportunity to say “You sunk my battleship!” this would have earned at least an extra star.
But (spoiler alert) he didn’t. In the end director Peter Berg has given the phrase “a poor man’s Michael Bay” unneeded credibility.