By Hugh Humphreys
After watching this trailer, I was convinced “Battleship” was going to be atrocious – way too serious, lame dialogue, unbelievable action and one of the more ridiculous alien invasion plotlines. But what the trailer hides (to its detriment), is that “Battleship” sucks you in and takes you on a fun, gripping and wildly entertaining two-hour ride.
We begin with Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a lazy, troublesome slacker picking up a girl named Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) at a bar with some unexpectedly hilarious criminal activity. The fallout makes his older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) – a naval commanding officer – so furious, he drags him off to join the marines with him.
Simultaneously NASA scientists are setting up a new super-powerful satellite in Hawaii to try and send signals to the distant ‘Planet G’; where it’s theorised conditions are conducive to sustaining life.
Flash forward, and the newly shaven Kitsch and his fellow marines are competing in a multi-national military training exercise, coincidentally off the coast of Hawaii.
From here on in it’s easy to settle back in your seat and let the rest of the plot wash over you – something along the lines of aliens do actually exist and aren’t happy with being contacted, they arrive on earth, and the mere humans have to try and stop them before they destroy everything. You get it.
Director Peter Berg (“Hancock”) is in fine form with his heart-stopping action sequences – combining fast-paced, frenetic visuals with high-volume beats to give plenty of bang for your buck. When AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” started playing mid-way through the film, I’m fairly sure the entire cinema was so drawn in we were about to erupt in cheers. The epic battle scenes even manage to make you look past some of the clichéd dialogue, including a personal favourite when one soldier screams, “Let’s see if we can buy the world another day”!
There’s no hint of the popular Hasbro game – on which the film is loosely inspired – until midway through the film, when in a stroke of genius, the plot twist and subsequent action sequence is more gripping than almost all the other explosions and flashy visual effects.
And squeezed somewhere in all of that action is the love story between Samantha, whose father happens to be Admiral Crane (played excellently by Liam Neeson, who sadly has way too little screen time), the boss of both the Hoppers, who thinks Kitsch’s character is none too worthy of his daughter’s affections.
Credit must be given to Taylor Kitsch, who is an unexpectedly strong lead, and “Friday Night Lights” fans will love his character’s similarity to the popular Tim Riggins. Brooklyn Decker and Alexander Skarsgard are a bit too wooden for my liking, but the second you begin to think about that, up crops another enormous explosion to keep you distracted. Pop star Rihanna is very watchable in her big screen debut as feisty Petty Officer Raikes, captivating both running around getting weapons and muttering “boom” at the appropriate moments.
The film is incredibly silly, a bit one-dimensional and a whole lot predictable, but you know what? It’s such an enjoyable thrill that it makes it all worth it. For entertainment value alone, “Battleship” is easily one of the year’s guilty pleasures, drawing you in with laughter and likeable enough characters from the opening scene, and then keeping you there with some mind-blowing periods of action, a good sense of humour and by not taking itself too seriously.
The game Battleship is a bit of harmless, unrealistic, feel-good fun, and the movie “Battleship” is very much the same. Worth a look.