Cert: 12A Runtime: 131 mins Director: Peter Berg Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård,Brooklyn Decker, Rhianna and Liam Neeson
The Battle for Earth Begins at Sea
After hearing of this over ambitious film, I knew what I was going to expect. Battleship is the very popular board game by Hasbro that has now been given the movie make over. Battleship opens with a washed up loser Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) sitting in a bar together. Alex spots a girl that he likes in Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) and is determined to impress her. He breaks into a store to steal a snack for her but is taken down by the police. Stone is already in the Navy and after this incident he insists that his brother is going to clean up his act and join him. Meanwhile, NASA is sending out satellite signals to detect whether there is life to be found in outer space. Sometime after Alex’s mistake, he is not only in the Navy with his brother but he is also dating Samantha. She is pressuring him to talk to her father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) and ask for his permission to marry her. This is interrupted when alien crafts appear out of nowhere and start attacking the Earth. It’s left to the Navy to try and stop these alien ships and for Alex to live up to his potential.Battleship is here to recruit you. It’s disturbing to think that a major toy company like Hasbro, whose studio produced this film, has invested into what is essentially a propaganda movie. Hasbro’s involvement comes as Hollywood looks to increasingly commoditise its industry by adapting toys into films, rather than seeking to develop new ideas.
Not unlike Battle: LA from last year, the level of patriotism and flag waving is laughable. The film would like you to believe that if the disabled, the elderly and dim-witted can save the world so can you. It’s a mixture of embarrassing clichés and fantasy. Why is it that in movies as dopey as this a character with titanium legs must fight or run again? Isn’t it enough that the veterans of combat have served their time and put their bodies on the line? Even more cringing is that after a defeat Alex and his men resort to using an old battleship and out of nowhere a group of old seamen appear to help them man the vessel. Where did they come from? This wasn’t meant to be funny but I still laughed. Equally condescending is that despite Alex breaking and entering, damaging property and evading arrest, he is still able to date a model and be promoted in the Navy. I find that even more ludicrous than our extraterrestrial invaders. Everything in this movie is designed to appeal to young boys and its messages are to me cynical and irresponsible. I respect that there are a lot of hardworking people in the Navy and its emotional toll in being separated from their families would be devastating. Yet current and former servicemen would have a hard time keeping a straight face watching this because there is no reality. There’s none of the isolation, bullying or intensity that occurs at sea. Instead, the film sights are set low. Ultra low. Alex’s story is really just two bookends at the beginning and end of the film.
The rest of the film is deliberately comprised of monotonous action and even at that level it’s a colossal failure. Some will argue for the quality of the special effects. What does it matter though when all of the sequences are so indistinguishable from one another? Set pieces are fine so long as they progress the story rather than become a substitute for it. The action is bloodless, repetitive and purposeless, leaving huge gaps in the story. The jump between Alex’s crime and naval career is so large I wondered whether I was watching the same character. The rest of the characters are dispensable and under-written too. Brooklyn Decker and pop singer Rihanna seem to have been cast by a marketing committee rather than for their acting abilities. While Liam Neeson is under strict guidelines that say he must play nothing else but that angry admiral who barks orders at people and doesn’t think anyone is good enough for his daughter. If Decker is twenty-six in real life and her character is an established physiotherapist isn’t she a little old to be asking daddy’s permission to get married? The cast can do little with slabs of boring exposition and unimaginative lines (“Hit ’em with all we’ve got!”) that are a substitute for adult conversations and dialogue. Also, if the aliens are intent on blowing up the ships with men on them, why do they bother using their special vision to scan humans and spare some of them? The aliens are mostly unseen but when they are visible they’re laughably bad. Their design is straight from the video game Halo, which reiterates the focus of this movie: young boys who I sincerely hope know better. Dismissed!