"Hmm.... right, enter the co-ordinates of Jordan Farley's house and fire everything we've got."
Release Date: 20 August 2012
2012 | 12 | 131 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)/£24.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Universal Pictures UK
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano
It’s common to hear bloated, special-effects-driven blockbusters described as “dumb fun”. Unfortunately there’s very little that could be described as “fun” in Battleship. There is, however, a whole lotta “dumb”. Dumb characters who get in a huff over chicken burritos; dumb aliens who travel halfway across the galaxy to invade Earth, but only bring sea vessels and ground troops; dumb suits who thought a boardgame like Battleship could be stretched into a compelling two-hour action movie…
There’s a layer of rusty familial melodrama all over the hull, but Battleship’s nuts and bolts boil down to this: pesky scientists sending signals out into space inadvertently invite invading ETs to Hawaii. As luck would have it, the heroic American and Japanese navies are at sea for a spot of training, and have just enough time between homoerotic football matches and portentous veteran ceremonies to save the world.
Battleship’s biggest problem is exactly this wildly erratic tone. At times it’s sillier than shaving foam sideburns, at others it goes to extraordinary lengths while po-facedly paying respect to American servicemen, serving or otherwise. Battleship was ripe for treatment as a send-up of the braindead tentpole blockbuster, but irony is not in the film’s vocabulary. What little there is almost certainly isn’t intentional, which makes the more outlandish moments even more excruciating.
The painfully generic aliens are only marginally less charismatic than the humans swabbing the decks. Taylor Kitsch demonstrates some charm in the goofy opening burrito heist, but loses all his charisma (along with his surfer-bro haircut), when he joins the fleet. Rihanna is the only other actor to make an impression – a very bad one, with the popstar occupying the most egregiously underwritten tough-chick role in recent memory.
It’s quite possible that someone involved in Battleship had the right idea at some point. An audacious recreation of the boardgame proves to be the one original and inventive action sequence in the entire film, funnily enough, but when something like Battleship isn’t even worthy of the label “dumb fun” you’d be ill-advised to set sail in the first place.
Buy the DVD (rated) and you just get a trailer for the (rubbish) PS3/Xbox game. Purchasers of the Blu-ray get an hour of featurettes on the visual effects, cast, director and the challenge of shooting at sea. There’s also an alternate ending pre-vis and a digital copy.
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For an alternate perspective, read our Battleship review from the theatrical release.
Watch a Battleship featurette about “Goldilocks planets”.
Watch a Battleship trailer.