Peter Berg | 126 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13
Battleship never sounded like a good idea. An adaptation of a board game that in no plausible way resembles real life? At least Clue was aping a board game that aped Agatha Christie mysteries, and turned it into a farce at that; and a theme park ride adaptation like Pirates of the Caribbean could take the basics of the ride (which is really just a series of piratey tableaus) and thread them into a new story. And then someone mentioned Battleship was going to involve aliens, and it really all went to hell.
Unsurprisingly, Battleship the film is nothing like the game… except for one sequence where, for reasons I can’t remember in the slightest, the crew of the titular vessel have to try to shell the aliens without the usual modern gadgety shebang, and so it’s a bit like the board game. It’s shoehorned in but it’s still one of the more memorable bits.
Around this is a bunch of absolute codswallop that I don’t care to remember. It’s something to do with an alien invasion and they do it at sea and there’s only one ship that can stop them but the only person who can command it is the young loudmouth playboy recruit who has so much potential but never fully realises it… until now! Honestly, it’s that clichéd, and it would seem unashamedly so. Everything else about the film is Transformers-at-sea — huge robots, big punch-ups, shoot-outs, explosions, all the rest.
As if aware of how awful it is, the film attempts to make it wash with something sure to appeal to the American public and be uncriticisable: “aren’t veterans great!” Battleship fetishises the American armed forces in a way rarely seen — and that’s saying something. The ground resistance is led by an Iraq vet with no legs, still in physio, hobbling up a mountain on prosthetics to realise he’s still worth something as he saves the day. America, fuck yeah! And when the main battleship is ruined, our plucky heroes have no choice but to co-opt the museum piece (literally) WWII ship; and because most of their crew is dead, the museum guides — all of them septuagenarian WWII vets — have to man their ship once again. To defeat those invading scum, just like before! AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!
Oh, and Liam Neeson is in it. Barely. And he phones it in. And not a cool phone call like he’s famous for. All things considered, we can forgive that man some of his movie choices in the past few years, but this one must’ve been about the payday alone. Same goes for Rihanna. You’ve probably seen that article listing all her lines. As it suggests, she’s basically a glorified extra, and a poor one at that. Stick to getting your tits out in Irish fields, love.
You’ll notice I haven’t given Battleship the ignominy of a single star. Thing is, for all its awfulness, some of the action is OK, there are some (unearned) triumphant moments, and though the film’s veteran-worship is as transparent as its clear blue Hawaiian seas, it sometimes works. Kinda.
Battleship featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2013, which can be read in full here.