Faced with a choice between watching a movie about salmon fishing or aliens blasting battleships, I decided to opt for the latter, fully aware that this could be a very noisy mistake. Nevertheless, I am drawn to movies about battleships and aliens by a force I am unable to resist. And so it wasn’t my fault. Also, having been brought up playing Battleship regularly, I was rather intrigued by how the act of putting five pegs in row on a board would be translated into 131 minutes of big drama. I might be wrong, but in the games I played my tugs were never sunk by an alien force from Planet G.
I would normally warn you at this stage whether spoilers are present in a review but in this case such a warning would be unnecessary. If there is a single plot turn that you haven’t guessed before you even enter the cinema then I would be surprised. It’s a fair bet that you could pre-guess the dialogue as well. And so, safe in the knowledge that you’re not in for too many surprises, you might as well hunker down into your cinema seat with a steady stream of high-sugar snacks and give in to two hours of big noises, big explosions, big ships, even bigger spaceships and the biggest dose of political correctness you’ll have seen in quite some time.
Americans and Japanese forces join together to beat an alien invasion of Pearl Harbor, discovering that by working as one they can save the world. An ex-army soldier who lost his limbs for his country can now get back a sense of self by winning earth an extra day. Luckily for him, by his side he has an attractive physio who not only happens to be the daughter of the admiral of the fleet but is also the fiancee of the loose cannon who saves the day – Hopper (Taylor Kitsch).
There are actually two Hoppers – Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) and Alex (Kitsch). But while one brother (Stone) is a shiny beacon for all navy officers, the other isn’t, although he still enters the navy at the ridiculously senior level needed for him to defeat an alien military force almost single-handed. Introduced to us as a long-haired fool who would do anything to impress his future bride Sam (Brooklyn Dekker), including stealing a chicken burrito no less, Alex finally gets the chance to prove his worth to Sam’s father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) just before he is kicked out of the navy for good. Unfortunately, it takes the loss of over 20,000 lives in Hong Kong and the annihilation of several battleships off Hawaii before he can do it.
Several years ago, NASA sent a greeting out into space from Hawaii towards the one planet that might just support life, Planet G. Unfortunately, the inhabitants didn’t understand English – possibly because they look like close relations of the walrus – and instead decided to attack earth with an amazingly small number of ships. Sealing the islands under an impenetrable bubble, the beardy, ugly aliens have to use the satellite dishes of Hawaii to ask their home planet for help. This is because their communications vessel unfortunately landed on top of Hong Kong. Trapped within the bubble along with Hawaii are just a few ships with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Very few inhabitants of the islands get a mention but inconveniently Sam and her wounded soldier with a big chip on his soldier are trapped on top of the mountain with the satellite dishes that Alex must destroy. Edge of your seat stuff.
It is very easy to dismiss a film like Battleship, not least because it deserves it. But there is something rather likeable about a film that is consciously very cheesy and fully aware of what everyone will say about it. It has Rihanna as a hot-headed monosyllabic gun-toting sailor! Surely it would never have done that if it didn’t mean for it to seem daft? Throw in some gags and a huge dollop of sentiment – wounded soldiers and retired sailors both get a standing ovation here – and you’ll be rooting for Alex and his band of misfit loveable survivors. It all seems tongue in cheek and even the aliens aren’t totally horrible. If a human doesn’t fight them then they don’t view them as a threat and won’t kill them. Admittedly a lot of humans do bite the bullet but maybe that’s an innocent mistake and all the aliens want to do is get to know us and other walruses?
Director Peter Berg clearly had a lot of fun with Battleship making the loudest explosions he could possibly make. The alien spaceships and weapons are different enough to be interesting and their abilities are consistent as are their weaknesses – something that could not be said about the ridiculous aliens of Battle Los Angeles. Taylor Kitsch does indeed have star qualities and makes for a likeable action hero and as such he does help one get in the mood to have fun with the cheese and silliness. The film looks good and it looks expensive. It’s also pleasingly content in its 2Dness. Battlefield is, though, preposterous and as daft as flying cows but when all is said and done it has two things going for it – 1) battleships, 2) aliens – both of which do exactly what they say on the tin.
However, I’m still not convinced that Berg actually played Battleship…