In case you weren’t already aware, Battleship is based on a board game in which the only verbal communication comes from two players muttering co-ordinates at each other.
Safe to say, the resulting movie mostly abandons the ‘calling out numbers to each other’ thing and instead decides to focus on the much more visually appealing ‘blowing ships to smithereens’ part of the classic board game. Any story that might once have existed has been sacrificed in favour of more explosions, more clichéd action film dialogue, and a group of aliens that are just about shiny and colourful enough to provide a decent merchandising opportunity.
The plot is simplistic at best. NASA breaks rule number one of the sci-fi/action genre by sending out a signal to the nearest habitable planet. This inevitably leads to a group of aliens (known in official material as ‘The Regents’ although the name is never mentioned onscreen) deciding that Earth would make a perfect new summer home.
The resulting invasion conveniently centres on Hawaii, more specifically Pearl Harbour, where it just so happens that the world’s largest navies are participating in a series of exercises. Eventually, but not after several ships get sunk, it’s up to a daring group of seamen that includes Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård and Rihanna (yes, that Rihanna) to save the world from the enemies’ curiously peg-shaped bombs.
The cast has only one setting – dull, unemotional naval machismo – as they meander through a script that attempts little in the way of mystery or character development as all of the main players are cut from the same ‘loud mouthed but well-meaning military folk’ cloth. All the while Liam Neeson looks on as the gruff voiced, steely faced Vice-Admiral Shane; a role that is lamentably underused, as he seems to be the only one actually trying.
Any worries that Rihanna might not be able to act are quickly dispersed by the fact that her companions have lost any talent they might have had in the mess of distracting noises that director Peter Berg (of Hancock fame) has managed to put together.
They aren’t particularly great noises, either. The action sequences all start to resemble each other as the Navy and the aliens quickly entrench themselves into an hour and a half of throwing missiles at each other. Once you’ve seen one ship sink, you’ve seen them all, and when the film finally tries to do something new you are more likely to shrug and say ‘So what?’ than gasp or grin in excitement.
Battleship is a film about explosions, with a story loosely tied together by only the most frayed of strings. Anything apart from the obvious and repetitive action is purely supplementary; including plot, characters and a sense of excitement. The other movie adaption of a major Hasbro toy line, Transformers, seems subtle in comparison.