film review: Battleship (2012)

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Whether or not you’ll like Battleship will be very much predicated on your ability to ignore rubbish. Your tolerance for nonsense, if you will…

… Because, my oh my, is there a lot of rubbish in Battleship. If you can get past that then it’s all smooth sailing. Or not, as the case may be.

Battleship film, movie poster 2012, RihannaThe truth is that Battleship is a certain type film. You know, the type of film from based on a board game and brought to you by the people behind Transformers… It’s not actually directed by Michael Bay but I can’t help but feel like Battleship is Peter Berg‘s way of throwing his hat in the ring for any projects that Bay’s is too busy or too expensive for.

The similarities between this and Bay’s efforts are boundless, I’m pretty sure some of the sound effects are the same and they definitely borrow that slo-mo-noisy-giant-robot-flying-over-you shot more than once. Not literally, they have spent the cash on new CGI but it’s hard to see why they bothered. Similarly ripped is the idea that if you put enough “science type stuff” in it, no-one will notice that your plot is practically gibberish.

Not that it matters.

With three films under it’s belt, another on the way and over $2.6bn grossed world-wide, Transformers is a tried and tested product. Why try to do something different? I mean, I like the Transformers films, I’m not looking for anything different and I’m sure there’s millions of people out there who’ll be happy enough to see more of the same while we wait for Michael Bay to come back off his break. It hasn’t been released in the US yet and I don’t think it’ll be anywhere near as big as Transformers but it should do alright depending on what its competition is.

Ah, I’m not being entirely fair to Battleship (or I’m being overly fair, depending on your tolerance for nonsense) there are some differences there. Firstly, Taylor Kitsch is much more palatable than Shia LaBeouf, whose wise-crackin’ quickly became annoying. Kitsch plays the irresponsible bad boy with a touch of naivety and humility from the start so it’s easier to get on side with him. Also, Battleship has multi-million dollar pop superstar Rihanna. It’s not that she’s an amazing actress, this is only her first feature, but she’s a damn sight better than Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Two likeable lead, and Liam Neeson? That’s got to count for something.

Mind you… technically, I don’t think Rihanna is the female lead… or perhaps she’s one of two. The real Huntington-Whiteley role falls to Brooklyn Decker, who spends most of the film involved in a sub-plot that you just know is going to turn out to be extremely important… but right now seems to be going nowhere. Slowly. She’s… alright. She’s better than Huntington-Whiteley anyway! That girl really was a waste of space in Transfomers: Dark of the Moon, at least Megan Fox had a bit of personality. She looked like she might kick your ass if you deserved it. Decker’s somewhere inbetween, but I think that has more to do with the dragged out pacing of her sub-plot than anything else.

It’d probably be remiss if I didn’t comment a little more on Rihanna really. After all, it is a bit of an oddity to cast a singer and not have her play a singer…

Honestly. For her first feature, she’s fine. If anything I think they should have done more with her. She’s hobbled with some awful dialogue but she does what she can and she’s a pretty believable bad-ass. Perhaps she didn’t have a lot of time to shoot but I would have liked to see them develop her character a little more. She plays a petty officer (it’s mentioned once) but she may as well have been a grunt* for all we know about her. Either she didn’t have the time or they didn’t want to highlight her and risk making her bigger than the movie. I hope her next role will give her a little more to do.

What else is good about Battleship… what else… Well the two best things are, it’s much funnier than the usual blockbuster action fare. I presume the tongue was firmly in cheek for a lot of the time and it worked. There’s an absolutely hilarious scene with a bunch of veterans late on in the show. Best bit of the film. Let me be clear though, it’s not that the characters or the dialogue is meant to be funny, it’s just all so ridiculous that you have to laugh. But, I certainly didn’t get the sense that Berg was unaware of this, so I’m putting it in the “pro” column. The second best thing is the music. There’s some good classic rock in this film. Always a plus.

Ok, if you really think you want to know more than the fact that a lot of things blow up in this film then I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. The plot is overly convoluted, the aliens are singularly the most confused race of alien invaders I’ve seen since Plan 9 From Outer Space and the writers seem to have had trouble sticking to their own rules. Important rules. If you’ve seen the trailers than you’ll know that the invaders have put up a dome shaped force-field that we cannot penetrate… I’m genuinely still confused as to who and what was trapped inside that field. And unlike a lot of things I can ignore in action films… this kinda does matter. As does why the aliens choose to attack. Sometimes they attack people, sometimes they don’t. I have no idea why… and it kinda matters. Usually I can just ignore this stuff but these two points are a little too big for me to wave away.

That said, it’s still enjoyable as a popcorn-tastic spectacle of noise and colours so I wouldn’t let those things put you off if it’s what you’re looking for. This may not be the most cohesive action film you see all summer, but it’s a good laugh.


6/10

* or whatever the Navy equivalent is… seaman?

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