You know Hollywood fat cats are short on ideas when they turn to board-games for inspiration, so while you wait in giddy anticipation for Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders to make it to the screen here’s Battleship to occupy your brain cells, or rather punish them. From the producers of Transformers and the director who, against your will, brought you Hancock, Battleship brings you the story of Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch of John Carter…yeah, I’ve never heard of it either), an irresponsible, immature knucklehead-turned-Marine who must show heroism in the face of an alien attack in order to save the world and, most importantly, win the hot blonde Samantha (Decker) and the approval of her stern father Admiral Shane (Neeson). When Hopper loses his brother (Alexander Skarsgard) to the unforgiving hands of the CGI race if aliens he and his trusty crew, including Rihanna (Umbrella Video, Rude Boy Video) must outsmart the enemy.
The film kicks off in a surprisingly endearing way showing Hopper winning over Samantha by stealing her a chicken burrito. But once you see the preceding scene which sets up the love interest, opponent and Hopper’s reckless attitude you realise that the opening was utterly redundant and could have shaved a couple of needed minutes from the intimidating running time. This leads us to Battleship’s main flaw, not including the textbook structure, non-sensical narrative and moronic dialogue. It has absolutely no right to push past the two hour barrier, especially considering its horribly restricting subject matter. It’s puzzling as to why the film isn’t significantly shorter, as a running time of around 90 minutes would have made for a fun but forgettable action flick. But anything beyond that length is completely uncalled for especially considering that you could fit several rounds of the actual Battleships game into that timeframe and it would probably be a more enjoyable and stimulating experience.
The film boasts expensive looking effects and more explosions than the human mind can comprehend but it very swiftly becomes a chore to watch; dissolving into nothing but loud sounds and bright pictures. There are even moments where it seems apparent that the film’s money hungry creators got bored of the premise, particularly in a scene where one of the ocean-dwelling aliens fires a strange, ball-shaped robot to shore which starts shredding up the streets and smashing through cars. It’s so bizarrely out of place that it seems like a scene that never made the final cut of Transformers, but in all honesty it’s more exciting than watching endless explosions and splashes.
The standard of the cast is pleasantly surprising with Kitsch playing the pretty-boy protagonist with aplomb and giving Shia ‘slanted-eyebrow‘ LeBouf a run for his money. Rihanna, who appears to be the film’s main talking-point, hasn’t exactly set herself up for a career on the big screen but she’s just about bearable as the tough female sidekick who never manages to utter a single necessary line of dialogue. The scenes that are arguably the most involving are those set up the Hawaiian mountains and this is primarily due to solid performances from Hamish Linklater who plays the weedy, fast talking science nerd Cal and Gregory D. Gadson who plays the mean-faced paraplegic Lt. Mick Canales. The camaraderie between them, although tired and predictable, adds some comic relief to what would otherwise be an entirely tedious scenario.
All in all Battleship is hardly an insightful cinematic experience: it’s loud, boisterous and devoid of intellect. But considering it’s based on a board game it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Thankfully it refrains from taking itself remotely seriously and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a shameless, vacuous cash-in. It’s up to you to decide whether this is a good thing, if so then cross your fingers that more of these child’s toy adaptations will arrive on our shores. If not then you’ll have to grin and bear it. You never know, Buckaroo 3D might be the next Avatar.