Monday, 23 April 2012

BATTLESHIP (2012) - 2 STARS

"My dad said they'd come. He said we ain't alone. He said one day we'd find them. Or they'd find us."


DIRECTOR: Peter BERG
STARRING: Taylor KITSCH, Brooklyn DECKER, RIHANNA, Liam NEESON

With the world marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, it would appear that the film industry is having its own Titanic-themed week with the recent re-release of Titanic 3D and Aardman's Pirates: Band of Scientists being part of the UK box-office charts. But now the latest film set at sea has sailed by in the shape of Peter Berg's corny yet action-packed sci-fi flick Battleship which may probably go down as one of the most ridiculous films you'll see on the big screen. Think of Independence Day, Top Gun and Transformers rolled into one and it becomes a messy film with a complete suspension of reality not helped by a torrid script and an average cast which relies on a pop star making her film debut to try bring the big bucks in. It actually makes you wish Michael Bay made it which is saying something....

Aimless slacker Alex Hopper (Kitsch) struggles to do much in his life but after getting into trouble with the police, his older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgaard) challenges him to commit to the navy. However Alex's confrontational behaviour leads to him facing being kicked out by Admiral Shane (Neeson) whose daughter Sam (Decker) is dating the unfortunate marine. But things soon get complicated for Alex and the navy when a group of spaceships land in the middle of the ocean following a transmission between Earth and space which leads to them unleashing fire on the boats as well as causing havoc in Hawaii. It is left up to Hopper and his marines including feisty female marine Raikes (Rihanna) to try tackle the extraterrestrials head on knowing that if they fail, Earth and its people face being destroyed. Cue many loud explosions and exhilarating special effects....

The problem with CGI-infested blockbusters like Battleship is the investment of big money to make these deafening, booming films entertain its audiences and while this critic has been known to enjoy the odd guilty pleasure CGI flick (examples including Stealth and Speed Racer), this particular effort ends up being a complete disappointment going beyond the words 'corny' and 'ridiculous'. Based in some ways on the classic board game but with a sci-fi twist to it only adds to some of the major flaws in the plot hole-ridden story which seems to rely on its stunning visual work to try enhance its reputation with audiences and critics. Firstly why do the aliens appear? Why are they so dumb and so familiar-looking to other film aliens? Why don't we really care about some of the characters? Why waste the likes of Liam Neeson and Alexander Skarsgaard yet give Rihanna more screen-time? Just a slither of reasons out of many to know why this film fails to be taken seriously which is disappointing given director Berg's tenacity with action films. As was the case with Michael Bay's handling of the Transformers series (not from me obviously but in other people's views), we get the typically embarrassing moments in the film which make you cringe ranging from Alex's attempt to steal a chicken burrito from a closed shop with the Pink Panther theme playing to the heroic geek (one of several cliched characters) coming out of nowhere to overpower a deadly alien. But the most original yet cheese-infested moments comes towards the end when our heroes seem down and out, who are they going to call? The US Marine equivalent to Dad's Army of course! Anyone seeing the film won't be able to help but laugh at the silliness of that part. Another big disappointment for the film is the B-Movie type cast that fails to add any passion to the sloppily written script with uninspiring characters. Taylor Kitsch, fresh from his starring role in the box-office flop John Carter, fails to light up this film when responsibility is placed on him as a leading man again. Liam Neeson is wasted in his role as the gruff Admiral in what must be his 100th film of the year already while the tasty-looking Brookyln Decker is merely reduced to the predicable damsel in distress who spends most of her time standing around though even when she does commit to action, its nothing special. And of course Miss Umbrella herself Rihanna makes her ill-fated debut as the female marine who refuses to back down without a fight. Sadly that fight to really prove herself as an actress proves anti-climatic (just like her singing) through a lack of emotion in various scenes, but the lads will appreciate her appearance here nevertheless.

Obviously in its defense, there is no denying the visual spectacle of Battleship which takes inspiration from the Transformers films in its use of immaculate effects based on robots and flying machines, which is enough to boost its final rating. Technically it is made with great precision through the mixture of CGI and explosions ranging from the first appearance of the robotic ships to the spectacular sequence involving a couple of small circular machines which cause havoc in Hawaii by destroying an airfield and a motorway bridge. The aliens look good too yet are rather predictable in terms of appearance, a common trait with sci-fi films nowadays. Interestingly the one actor from the film who avoids any ridicule is one who has never acted before. Gregory D. Gadson is cleverly cast as the Marine Vet Mick (with robotic legs) who has clearly suffered a lot of trauma during his war career and is able to lend some realism in his experience with war through his character who helps the damsel in distress Sam in her quest to confront the aliens. Kitsch, Decker and Rihanna take note!

VERDICT: Disappointingly this 'Battleship' hits troubled waters with Berg trying too hard to be the new Michael Bay and despite delivering on action, the film is sunk by its lack of character work and horrendous plot-holes. As for Rihanna's acting career, it just got complicated!

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