Saturday 25 August 2012
(Peter Berg, 2012) Aping the peculiar glossy bombast of the blockbuster cinema of Michael Bay, Battleship is a little surprising, proving to be better than anything Bay has made in over a decade. It's still a bloated, sporadically terrible mess of cliches and moments stolen from other films, but there is some wit here and a few capably-delivered action sequences. Based obviously loosely on the Hasbro board game, the film focuses on Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) a young screw-up with impulse control and maturity issues (we know this because characters mention it repeatedly, cringily foregrounding his character arc for the idiots in the audience) who is forced to join the US Navy by his officer brother (Alexander Skarsgârd) and swiftly finds himself promoted to the role of Weapons Officer on a Destroyer. During an International Wargames gathering off the coast of Hawaii, after he has ruined his career and destroyed his chances of winning the approval of the Admiral father (Liam Neeson) of his girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker), an attack by Alien vessels seal Hopper and his crewmates inside a vast forcefield, rendering them, yes, you guessed it; humanities last hope. What ensues is lots of cgi battles and destruction, together with a couple of neat references to the board game - an aerial shot of the two sides in formation as on the board, and a late sequence when the Navy have to fire blind and anticipate exactly where their technologically superior enemy will be in the ocean. Meanwhile Hopper's girlfriend Sam is given something to do, finding herself in a crucial location at just the right time, teaming up with a crippled veteran (Gregory Gadson) and a Scientist (Hamish Linklater in the Jeff Goldblum part) to fight some aliens on land. Added to all this are a few standout sailors (Rihanna and Jesse Plemons) and a revoltingly earnest celebration of ageing US veterans, folded into the generally jingoistic fetishization of the might of the US Military. The characterisation is primitive, the dialogue at times embarrassing, and the whole thing caked in loud music, from Steve Jablonsky's score to a succession of rock songs by the likes of AC/DC, the Black Keys and Stone Temple Pilots over more or less every scene. The aliens (humanoid but for some Star Trek-style adjustments to cranial architecture and number of fingers) and their technology are almost throwaway in their over-familiarity, an early sequence set during a soccer match features perhaps the worst cinematic example of such I have ever seen, and the cast are almost uniformly wasted. Still; it is better than any of Bay's Transformers films (which it most obviously resembles) due to Berg's occasional flashes of wit (the alien missiles looking like pegs from the board game, and Kitsch's misunderstanding of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War", for instance), his slightly more classical style - not quite so many cuts and slo-mo Money Shots as Bay prefers - and a couple of decent action scenes.