April 12, 2012 1 Comment
After getting tasered by the police for ransacking a gas station in order to microwave a burrito for a girl he fancies (Brooklyn Decker), Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is forced into joining the Navy by his disapproving brother (Alexander Skarsgård). Finding himself in the position of weapons officer despite being notoriously hot-headed and completely unreliable, the now Lieutenant Hopper is further promoted when an alien armada slaughters his superior officers and isolates his ship from the rest of the fleet. While Alex fights for his life against four extraterrestrial warships, with only a sixty year-old boat, a chart-topping Barbadian and a geriatric crew of retirees for help, Girl From Earlier (who is actually the Admiral’s daughter AND a buxom physiotherapist) walks up a hill with a crippled war veteran who has apparently given up the fight for good. Or has he? Do we care? Maybe he’s a cyborg? Wait, huh?
Towards the end of Return of the Jedi, after three – nay, six – films’ worth of build-up, there is a scene in which the second Death Star powers up as it prepares to decimate the rebel fleet. As a series of laser beams converge to what was previously Alderaan-eviscerating effect, a super-beam fires into space causing the destruction of numerous rebel cruisers. Described as the full power of that particular battle station, it stands proud as one of the biggest explosions in the Star Wars universe. In Battleship, meanwhile, a comparable effect occurs in the prologue, only rather than being a climactic display of fire power, it is merely a simple transmission. A TRANSMISSION. In Battleship, even the transmissions explode. And why not; so do the oceans, the cities and your very eardrums, too.
Taking the Hasbro game – itself based on a pencil-and-paper variant famed for its reliance on tactics and strategy – and proceeding to beat his audience around the head with it until something goes boom, director Peter Berg has created something so loud and debilitating that it is practically indistinguishable from shell-shock. A torturous exercise in learned helplessness, Battleship is nothing short of a costly endurance test, as the booming soundtrack and concussion-inducing explosions ring out with ever-increasing volume to leave you drooling vacantly into your popcorn. But even this trauma isn’t enough to mask the sheer idiocy with which the film is carelessly hung together.
When your ears have stopped ringing and the auditorium has ceased its spinning, all that Battleship leaves you with are questions. After all, come the end of the movie we still don’t know what the alien invaders actually came for in the first place. Resources? Chicken burritos? Rihanna’s autograph? They were headed for Hawaii long before their communications ship hit a satellite – causing it to accidentally level China, perhaps the most ridiculous place on Earth to start an invasion. An invasion, for some reason, conducted at sea in amphibious spaceships. As for the forcefield handily ostracising the rest of the fleet, why is it visible only on occasion? Why do the aliens only fire when fired upon? Why bother with guns at all when you have giant cordless yoyos capable of devastating (unused?) airfields and obliterating roads?
It’s as if Asylum won the lottery and decided to have a go at production value, having recently watched the Transformers trilogy, undergone a double-lobotomy and bumped into Rihanna down the shops. The effects are over-complicated, the dialogue so terrible that you can’t help but quote it ironically and the acting an afterthought hurriedly filmed in second unit. Taylor Kitsch is still playing John Carter, except instead of defying gravity to save Barsoom he is stealing microwaveable snacks from his local gas station. Liam Neeson, on the other hand, has put on a Navy uniform and exhausted his talents by merely showing up. It’s the singer-turned-nope, still a singer who really stands out, however; so dead is she behind the eyes that she can only be a product of Zemeckis-era motion capture animation. And they’re the only cast members I can actually remember.
Nauseatingly loud, eye-wateringly stupid and so utterly disorientating that it might not really have happened at all, Battleship is less a movie than it is two-odd hours of that feeling you get when you stand up too fast. Bearing about as much resemblance to the original board game as Liam Neeson does to that actor from Schindler’s List, Battleship is a sobering – and did I mention deafening? – glimpse at the blockbusters of the future, should Michael Bay be allowed to live.