Those who have seen the bombastic trailers for Peter Berg’s Battleship (2012) – the latest big screen adaptation of a Hasbro product, following in the footsteps of the lucrative Transformers franchise – will know exactly what to expect from this Hollywood blockbuster. Based on the popular strategic board game of the same name, this sci-fi action adventure features brainless effects-heavy set pieces, corny dialogue and even a Barbadian pop mega-star (Rihanna) thrown in for good measure, yet remains vaguely watchable in spite of itself.
Man-of-the-moment Taylor Kitsch stars as Alex Hopper, the wayward brother of decorated Hawaii-based naval officer Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård). Frustrated by his younger sibling’s lack of discipline, Stone enlists Alex into the US navy, despite his current affiliation with alluring physiotherapist Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), who just so happens to be the precious daughter of the base’s ever-watchful head honcho Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson).
Much to the irritation of Admiral Shane, Alex accompanies his brother and a fleet of naval destroyers on a series of off-shore military exercises, miraculously finding themselves in the middle of an interstellar battle with an aggressive, extra-terrestrial scouting force from the distant ‘Planet G’. Stranded in the Pacific with their alien counterparts, the Hopper brothers find themselves locked in an epic struggle for survival, with the outcome ultimately integral to the future of the human race.
Berg’s Battleship is an unashamed, ‘Independence Day at sea’ slugfest that somehow manages to just about keep its head above water, mostly due to a comedic sense of self-awareness. The one-liners come thick and fast – Rihanna’s feisty petty officer Raikes (think Aliens’ Vasquez) the main exponent – and Kitsch fumbles his way through as the down-on-his luck washout come-good. However, the film’s frequent, near-deafening set pieces too-often threaten to undo this initial good work, its messy CGI and cluttered sound mix (trampling over the Rick Rubin-produced OST) a little too close to Bay’s Transformers cycle for comfort.
Unlike the Transformers series, there seems little danger of Battleship board game fans clamouring for Berg’s head after sitting through this brash, unrelenting guilty pleasure. If nothing else, his film has managed to coat itself in enough clichés, comedy and cannons to at the very least appeal to the teenage male market – that alone may well see this big budget B-movie safely through choppy waters to a sequel outing (especially if the end credits are anything to go by).