Most people forking out for a ticket to see Battleship, a film based on Hasbro's grid-based guessing game, would expect to be subjected to the immortal line – or some derivative of the line – “You sunk my battleship!”
And, sure enough, director Peter Berg delivers. About half way through a potentially apocalyptic battle against an alien invasion, he propels a version of the line like a harpoon from the mouth of a plucky, geriatric navy veteran who, despite having done nothing but keep watch over an obsolete war vessel for the last few decades, is now busy trying to save the world.
Battleship, in fact delivers on every level you would expect – if what you are expecting is big, loud and bursting with snazzy effects – and shamelessly void of sense and character development.
Berg, best known for Hancock and Friday Night Lights (producing the TV series that stemmed from his own film), has taken a sensibly light touch on the film’s undeniably turgid and very silly board game premise, from the script (sound bites like the one above are hyped to the max) to the uncomplicated characters. He even includes a scene where naval officers actually play a sort of Battleship game – with actual battleships.
Taylor Kitsch (you last saw him in the box office disaster John Carter) is Alex Hopper, the loveable black sheep to brother Stone's (Alexander Skarsgard) naval success story.
Shortly after winning the affections of the gorgeous (but kind and talented) physiotherapist Sam (Brooklyn Decker) by stealing her a microwave burrito (oh yes), Hopper not only joins the navy, but discovered that his new boss Admiral Shane (Neeson) is his girlfriend’s dad, who pretty much hates him.
There’s also an alien invasion on the way, and for reasons too absurd and unnecessary for us to delineate, he is the only one who can do anything about it.
It’s a silly film – ok, very silly – but it never pretends to be anything other than a high-tech showboat, blowing up ship after bigger ship as it merrily races along faster than a shark on water-skies, with never a moment’s pause to wonder whether any of it actually makes sense.
The whole things reeks of Transformers, from its Michael Bay-esque sun-soaked horizon shots to its hapless Pentagon stooges (it even comes with the tagline "From Hasbro, the Company that brought you Transformers") but has the good sense to bypass its close cousin’s dependence on asinine humour. Its characters take themselves seriously – it’s just their director who sees the silly side.
The only real surprise here is that Rihanna, in her first film role, is actually not bad at all, her terrible lines aside. She isn’t even given any special star-tastic screen time, fitting neatly into the gang of heroes like the obedient marine that she is.
It’s not going to win any awards – but Battleship is about as dependable a vehicle as its namesake suggests. Boats, Hawaii, a merciless aggressor… It’s a bit like Pearl Harbor – just without any of that holier-than-thou self-satisfaction.