Keen to repeat in the success of The Transformers, Hasbro’s next cinematic focus is a less obvious choice. Inspired by the classic board game Battleship, Universal last paid tribute to it in 1991’s Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
The story begins with a 2005 discovery of a distant planet with a similar climate to Earth. The Beacon Project is set up by NASA to try and make contact with any potential life. Some time later, they receive an undesired response as five objects from space crash violently into the sea. Conveniently, this occurs near to a routine naval exercise. As the two sides become sealed in an extra-terrestrial force field bubble (a bit like the one in The Simpsons Movie), the stage is set for 131 minutes of explosions!
Taylor Kitch (John Carter) plays Alex, a slacker drafted into the US Navy by his brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård). Bajan pop starlet Rihanna plays a wisecracking Petty Officer with attitude. Filling in the Megan Fox fiancée role is Brooklyn Decker as Sam. Liam Neeson also makes an appearance as Admiral Shane, skilfully switching between Irish and American accents at will.
As the alien crafts change shape to unleash their deadly weaponry, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you aren’t in fact watching an oceanic Transformers spinoff. Even the soundtrack bares the signature of its robot cousins as Steve Jablonsky returns to composing duties. Perhaps the similarities are intentional, as the formula has worked well in the past.
Between the action scenes are cutaways of officers studying monitors, aerial shots, rousing scenes of patriotism and hints of humour. What is sorely missing though is much in the way of character development. With lines such as “I’m going to break my steel leg off in your ass”, the dialogue too is, as another officer eloquently describes, a “stupid nincompoop”.
There are some logic holes too, such as when an alien craft lets out a sonic boom so loud that it shatters all of the distant US Navy ship windows, while having no affect on the crewman’s hearing. Later however, a comparatively tiny wall explosion causes their ears to ring in slow-mo, cinematic style.
It’s not all bad news though. The mammoth budget provides fantastic special effects, and the movie is packed full of them. Kudos too for recreating a live-action version of the board game, as the Navy strategically plot their courses of action.
As the battle escalates, one salty seadog rallies the crew by saying “Let’s take these bastards somewhere they don’t want to go”. Judging by the US box office, he was possibly referring to this film. Battleship is a treat for the eyes (both in terms of the action and cast), but the wafer thin story may have you closing them before the credits roll.
Review by: Mark O'Connell
Review Date: 23rd August 2012
Rating out of 5: