The reason I’m paid a fortune to write reviews is for lines like this: Battleship? Battleshit more like. Yet it almost feels redundant telling you that Battleship is a bad film. We all saw the trailers, we all knew what was coming: a cynical, corporate behemoth carrying a cargo of parts nicked from films like Armageddon, Independence Day and Transformers, and fueled by some shameless paycheckery from the likes of Neeson and Rihanna. The USS Hasbro. We knew this was going to be bad. But the meeting of art and commerce needn’t be this painful. It’s enough to make me quite concerned about the future of the Hungry Hungry Hippos franchise.
The plot is so simple you should imagine the next sentence written in crayon: aliens arrive in massive spaceships and land off the coast of Hawaii, where the Navy just happen to be conducting military exercises. The aliens put up a force field bubble thing (that looks like a giant CGI umbrella, ella, ella) and the scene is set for an epic maritime face-off that drags on and on for 130 minutes until you wish you could accuse your friend of peeking, flip the board over in a temper and storm off to your room.
Battleship is directed by Peter Berg, but it’s infused with so much Michael Bay DNA that if you sent a Terminator back in time to eliminate Bay’s mother this film would cease to exist. The only difference is the cripplingly unfunny, self-harm inducing “comedy” scenes from the Transformers films are gone, which is a relief, but then again the special effects in Battleship simply aren’t as good either (if the effects in Transformers are a 10, then Battleship’s are about a 7.5), so it’s swings and roundabouts.
The cast are actually fine. Kitsch is likeable enough but coming off the back of John Carter, a box office wreck currently rusting at the bottom of the Atlantic, this film is the last thing he needed. Rihanna’s casting is no more ridiculous than the Abercrombie models that pass for Marines in the Transformers movies, but she’s given little more to do than mumble one-liners as she fires big guns. Neeson is gruff and stoic, obviously, although he disappears for most of the film: I seriously spent the second half waiting for him to return and shout “You sunk my battleship!” but it never happened. Maybe Neeson kept shouting “You signed my paycheck!” and they had to cut it.
In a move that made me slightly seasick, the producers decided to appropriate real life heroism and tragedy by casting actual war veterans in key scenes. Real life Iraq hero and amputee Greg Gadson makes his acting debut and, one suspects, his acting swan song: he’s so bad it would have been less offensive to just hire Ving Rhames and CGI his legs out. The elderly veterans that make up the crew in the film’s climactic scenes involving the USS Missouri seem to be having fun, but the film is so wretched that a centrefold in Razzle would have been more dignified.
The eight-foot tall aliens do that 12A/PG-13 thing of backhanding people non-lethally against walls, instead of squishing their puny human heads like grapes. And in a very “interesting” creative decision, when they remove their helmets they are revealed to be bald ... with BEARDS. I swear I’m not joking. If you want a rough idea what they look like, google “travolta from paris with love”. I’ll wait while you do that.
I’m giving this film an extra star because it’s so breathtakingly jingoistic and boneheaded and steroidal and “HOO-RAH!” and “USA!” that it’s sometimes pretty funny and almost has to be seen to be believed. But don’t take that as a recommendation, I’m not actually suggesting you watch it. In fact, I’m saying DON’T watch it, through a megaphone, 6 inches from you face. In Aardman’s animated comedy Pirates!, a pirate ship powerslides to a halt complete with the sound of screeching tyres. In Battleship they do the same thing only it’s not a joke. This film is not very realistic, in my opinion.