Starring Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Rihanna • Directed by Peter Berg • Age restriction: 10V • Releases 4 May
Think of Battleship as a gigantic bag of candy-floss. It's wholly insubstantial, tasty for a few bites before you forget that you're eating it, and completely fragile. Clutch the candy-floss too tightly and it melts in your fist. Add a drop of water and the whole thing falls apart.
Look, if huge special effects and massive action-packed set-pieces are your thing — and you don't mind giving up on the minor details like a decent plot — then give Battleship a bash. Positively mindless blockbuster? Check. Ridiculous amounts of eye candy for both guys and girls? Check. Sparkling dialogue, interesting characters and original script? Meh, shuffle along. Nothing to see here, folks.
Based on the popular board game by Hasboro – who are clearly trying to cash in on their own massive Transformers success – Battleship didn't exactly have a wealth of lore to build on. The plot itself is relatively simple: Aliens come to earth but thankfully land in the middle of the world's biggest naval exercise.
Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper (Confession time: I had to Google the characters' names, that's how little of an impression they had on me) – an absolute loser (but with potential) who makes a series of bad life decisions and somehow ends up as a lieutenant in the US Navy.
His older brother Stone (played by the ever-delicious True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard) is one of the navy's young stars, and even commands his own ship. Both Hoppers end up on different ships as part of a gigantic international naval operation (enter… well, not battleships at first, but destroyers) led by a suitably gruff and grumpy Admiral (played by Liam Neeson, presumably to give the film some gravitas) – who also happens to be Alex's hot fiancé-to-be Sam's dad (pretty-but-blank Brooklyn Decker).
Unsurprisingly, daddy Admiral doesn't like Alex, who seems to be on a one-way ticket out of the navy after a punch-up with a Japanese officer. Oh, and Rihanna's on board, looking smoking hot and seeming to have a lot more fun than most of the people around her in her role as weapons specialist/radar operator Raikes. And then there are aliens. Naturally.
But again, let's be honest, you're not here for the plot. You want to see stuff get blown up. And you'll be glad to know that in the two hours and eleven minutes of running time, a lot of stuff is blown up.
Peter Berg directs a movie that feels kinda like Transformers meets Top Gun meets Pearl Harbour. There's nothing you haven't seen before, and that's okay. Is Battleship fun? Sure it is. Terrible dialogue, a predictable and poorly written script, largely wooden acting – all of the ingredients for your standard blockbuster, really. But at two hours and eleven minutes, it's overly long and starts to get a little repetitive. And did I mention predictable? Add to that a heap of glaring continuity errors and you may be laughing - for all the wrong reasons.
To be fair, it's not all bad. There are some great, self-aware moments – one veteran proclaims "They're not going to sink this battleship!" – and another sequence contains pretty much the most epic game of Battleship ever as they try to sink an alien craft. But these moments are rare and sacrificed for extended CGI sequences of destroyers-versus-spaceships (that look pretty much straight out of Transformers).
In fact, most of Berg's enthusiastic game-plan for Battleship seems lifted straight from Transformers mastermind Michael Bay's playbook. The film has a lot of the same ingredients as the first Transformers film – including a pumping score from Bay favourite Steve Jablonsky – but it all suffers at the hands of its one-dimensional characters.
I struggled to connect with anyone - there's no development, no back story, no real moments. People just... Are in Battleship. A vehicle for yet another CGI-alien shot. Kitsch is charming, to be sure, but little else. You know where his development's going, and he doesn't seem to want to take you for the ride. Kitsch's character is just a loser. Deal with it. YOu know he's the hero, so why bother? Skarsgard is impossibly serious and his overprotective-older-brother-schtick gets old quickly. And Neeson – well, is Neeson – but one can't help but wonder what he's doing in the film.
If all you're looking for is to watch big things explode on screen, Battleship's your movie. Otherwise, give it a miss. Wait for the DVD – or for the film to do its inevitable turn on MNet.