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Battleship (Frank's take)

1/06/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Battleship in the USA - or Buy Battleship in the UK

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There have been countless movies inspired by popularised video games. The list is endless in the “video game-to-big-screen” genre. In terms of board games being the blueprint for movie adaptations…well, let’s just say that this particular cinematic concept has not been as ubiquitous as their video game counterparts.

Still, it does not stop Hollywood from trying to reinvent an unconventional trend in a feeble attempt to put a distinctive spin on cranking out another generic action-themed flick.

In the noisy and numbing naval actioner Battleship, the waves come crashing into the shoreline with soggy results. Laboured and lumbering, the boisterous Battleship sinks more than it creatively swims. Based on the plastic-pegged Hasbro navy combat guessing board game, director Peter Berg’s (“Hancock”) water-logged wasteland primarily focuses its giddy gunpowder on an intrusive alien-invasion plotline. Despite its epic-sized grandeur, Battleship is empty-headed, clichéd and formulaic in its colourless scope. Laced with nonsensical adrenaline, Berg concocts a misguided military mishap that is fortified in overindulgent silliness.

Even with the loud explosions and fancy-minded firearms, Battleship is a faceless display of frenetic flourishes. It is baseless entertainment that has no redeemable purpose whatsoever beyond its mindless flexing and flaunting. In fact, Battleship the movie barely resembles any connection to Battleship the board game and has all the clunky charm of a rusty metal anchor. Screenwriting siblings Jon and Erich Hoeber leave nothing to the imagination in this bombastic bore. The alien butt-kicking session takes forever to get on track. Plus, the movie’s annoying surging soundtrack serves as the background pulse accompanying the flaccid follow-the-dots fury.

To show just how ridiculous this whole puffy projectiles piece is in forethought here is the skinny: handsome hotshot Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, “John Carter”) tries to impress a hot-looking physical therapist (Brooklyn Decker) in a seedy bar by scoring her a chicken burrito courtesy of breaking into a building to do so. Alex does leave some money behind to account for the chicken burrito but the damage of him breaking into the premise is too overwhelming despite his well-intentioned gesture of leaving cash for the obtained junk food.

Now instead of Alex’s misguided deed landing him in the pokey he is offered a golden chance to enlist in the Navy at the insistence of his straight-laced naval officer brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgaard) who sees his potential as top-notch officer material (nice to know that felons without ROTC backing are accepted into the Navy thanks to a simple nod of nepotism, huh?). Predictably, screw-up Alex will eventually become a heroic muscle-headed action figure when the going gets rough alongside his gung ho sibling. Both brothers are under the command of Alex’s new girlfriend’s father—a no-nonsense Admiral played by Liam Neeson.

Soon trouble lurks around the corner during naval exercises off Pearl Harbor when it is discovered that alien attackers have wreaked havoc in Hong Kong. These invaders also have vessels scattered in the Pacific ready to explode upon activation. Supposedly, the alien invaders are these intelligent species that are sensitive to sunlight yet they possess an incredible amount of firepower that conceivably could wipe out the American fleet with one blow. However, these so-called courageous creatures are fooled time and time again (they get outsmarted by a NASA nerd armed with a suitcase among other mishaps). Foolishly, the alien tormentors never seal the deal as they let the likes of foul-up pretty boy Alex Hopper turn from a frivolous frat boy Average Joe to super patriotic GI Joe in one implausible, laughable swoop.

The aimless blasts and booms that pepper the banal Battleship in this action-oriented dud shoot blanks. Berg’s needless narrative is tedious and trivial as it looks like it was conceived by kinetic throwaway hand-written notes taken by frantic filmmakers Michael Bay and/or Roland Emmerich during a quick pitch meeting with desperate movie executives. Dipstick dialogue, intrusive and overabundant CGI effects, toothless stimulation and an idiotic meatless script renders Battleship a sinkable revved-up romp. Even with copycat elements borrowed from other action flicks that range from the Transformers franchise to forgettable fare such as Battle: Los Angeles the Battleship brain-trust could not capitalise on familiar action-minded territory much less live up to the expectation of a childhood board game that inspired its big screen existence.

Clearly, former model Kitsch has the testosterone-driven “it” factor that is ideal for raucous spectacles such as his aforementioned John Carter and now the brain dead Battleship. Curiously, Kitsch does not seem that engaging in an empty-headed actioner where he is asked to play burly bandleader to the frolicking fuss the movie mechanically constructs. Curvaceous cupcakes Decker and sultry songbird Rhianna (as the ship’s gunner) have nothing better to do but provide scenery as eye candy. Neeson is thrown in the mix all too briefly and never registers anything substantial based on his participation. Asian sensation Tadanobu Asano—portraying a Japanese officer affiliated with the American naval brass—is not given much to do in tapping into his charismatic potential.

Pointless and protrusive, this Battleship needs to remain dockside. If you are lucky enough to have retained the old Hasbro board game then do yourself a favor and dust it off from your closet and play it for your nostalgic enjoyment as opposed to screening it.

What is next in terms of milking board games for cinematic consideration…Operation or perhaps Candy Land?

Battleship (Universal Pictures)
2 hrs. 8 mins.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Alexander Skarsgard, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol, Gregory D. Gadson, Tadanobu Asano
Directed by: Peter Berg
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action Adventure/Science Fiction & Fantasy

Critic’s Rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

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