There are some moments in life when you’re suddenly made to face the fact that you’re just not as young as you used to be. I encountered such a moment during the latest summer popcorn extravaganza Battleship when I found myself silently wondering “Why does this movie have to be so darned loud?!” And oh boy is it loud. In fact, whenever someone asks me how Battleship was, I’ll answer, “Well, it was loud” because there’s almost nothing else that can be said about it.
Positioned as yet another attempt to make the dunderheaded Taylor Kitsch “happen” (John Carter wasn’t quite the career launcher his handlers hoped it would be) and created in conjunction with Hasbro, the manufacturers of the boardgame the movie is based on, Battleship is an exercise in Michael Bay-style cacophonous mayhem. Unfortunately, this film has even fewer brains and far less sex appeal than the female characters that inhabit most of Bay’s films.
The story, such as it is, centres around young Alex Hopper (Kitsch) who, at the beginning of the movie, is a good-for-nothing layabout with long hair and sloppy clothes who crashes on his brother Stone’s (Alexander Skarsgard at his most statuesque and vacant) couch. One night at a bar he meets Sam (Brooklyn Decker), a pretty girl who really wants a chicken burrito despite the bar’s kitchen being closed. Moved by her blonde hair and ample breasts, Alex breaks into a nearby convenience store to get her that all-important burrito and gets tasered by the police in the process, earning him Sam’s everlasting love and a stern lecture about responsibility from Stone.
This all happens during the film’s first 10 minutes and is by far the most complicated part of the plot. From there, the film fast forwards in time to the day before Alex is about to ask Sam’s Father (Liam Neeson cashing, lets hope, a huge paycheque) for her hand in marriage. Since we last saw Alex, he’s joined his brother in the Navy and is a Lieutenant to Stone’s Commanding Officer. The two are about to head into a round of offshore training drills when Alex’s true rebellious nature rears its ugly head and its made clear to him that once he’s back on dry land, he’ll be kicked out of the Navy for good. Luckily for him (and us?) there’s an alien attack and he gets to save the world instead. Best. Diversion. Ever.
Pretty much from the moment the alien ships land at around the 20 minute mark, stuff starts to explode and it doesn’t stop exploding for the film’s remaining hour and forty-odd minutes. Occasionally one of the cardboard cut-out characters spouts off a pun or hilariously serious platitude (I’ll give credit to one supporting character for saying “who talks like that?” after one such occurrence).
There are also a whole host of obligatory moments when writers Erich and Jon Hoeber attempt to shoehorn some of that old Battleship game lingo into the script (“you’re not gonna sink this battleship!” etc.). It’s positioned as though the film is being all tongue-in-cheek and aware of itself, which occasionally maybe it is, but mostly it’s deadly serious about being a loud, stupid mess. Correction: A loud, stupid mess with Rihanna playing one of the central characters. Not even the adorable addition of some sweet, old war veterans kicking ass during the film’s final act can save the audience from having to sit through Rihanna trying to act.
Director Peter Berg (also, let’s hope, cashing a big paycheque) seems to always have his camera set on one of two modes: “extreme close-up” or “epileptic on a trampoline.” Coupled with the aforementioned loudness and the non-stop explosions, it makes for a headache-inducing evening at the cinema.
But hey, I’m clearly too old for a movie like Battleship, so what do I know anyway?
A silly summer popcorn flick that tries too hard to be witty and tongue-in-cheek while still embracing its deadly serious commitment to being the ultimate blow-em-up action extravaganza. In the end, neither angle works and the film sinks like a stone.