Published on October 5th, 2015 | by The Horse0
In case there was any doubt: yep, it is based on Battleships the board game. To officially earn the brand association, any film version of Battleships must faithfully reference the game’s characteristics, and with that its limitations.
Battleships the game dates back to 1931, so shoehorning it into a blockbuster sci-fi movie 80-ish years later is an interesting idea. But perhaps not an idea worth expending a huge boatload of time, money and energy on.
Yet someone, perhaps many someones, some of whom still have very well-paid Hollywood jobs, thought this was an excellent idea. (They might have still been high off the profits of Transformers.) Because they all eagerly agreed on it, and then went out for an expensive lunch and high-fived each other.
And here it is.
The alien ballistics are shaped like the game’s pegs. That’s probably the best bit – the alien hardware is inventive and as well-realised as made-up tech can be. Although a year later even this minor saving grace was blown out of the water by the infinitely superior Pacific Rim. A palpable hit.
Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, and Liam Neeson are all there, displaying varying degrees of wishing they weren’t.
And that is where the coolness ends and the stupidity begins.
Lead character Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is an irritatingly persistent and uniquely American hero: Cocky Yet Admirable Douchebag. From the first scene we know this walking Scumbag Steve Hat will singlehandedly save the world, and not in spite of his assholery, but somehow because of it.
Rebel without applause Hopper joins the US Navy and Becomes A Man. This transition seems to come to him naturally and quickly. Who knows. We don’t see any of it – not even a montage. The abysmally paced first act either omits several years of Hopper’s life, or the US Navy has no problem welcoming and promoting dangerous losers with addictive personalities.
Of course, there’s an all-American blonde girlfriend, Sam, a character so one dimensional she has no last name. On the end credits, she is just “Sam”. Poor Brooklyn Decker. Aside from being Yankee-Doodle Arm-candy, Sam spends the film wandering around a mountain being out-acted by some literally faceless VFX robots and a real army guy who’s not even an actor.
Battleship shamefully, bare-facedly attempts to rewrite the history of Pearl Harbour, and you’d better believe that this time, the Americans are gonna win. And Japan and America will work together! But only after the Japanese get themselves into hot water and have to be rescued by the heroic Americans.
Before All Hell Breaks Loose, there’s even – and I can’t be-fucking-lieve I’m typing this – there’s even a USA v Japan soccer match, while the sun glints off the combined armada in the background. And we’re still not done shitting on thousands of dead people! Later on the USS Missouri, one of the original ships, gets towed out of dry dock and into the action.
The battle sequences are chapters photocopied from Michael Bay’s Big Book of Bombs, the displays of military hardware are masturbatory, and there’s a contrived Battleships guess-where-the-enemy-ships-are “board game” scene midway through. Quite literally hit and miss.
I cannot begin to tell you how far off this film needs to fuck, and by this point I give no fucks about spoilers.
At the end, running out of the few ideas they had, the War of the Worlds conceit appears. It turns out the aliens’ Achilles’ heel is a virus!
Then this Deus ex machina then vanishes as quickly as it appears, because the filmmakers awkwardly remember the US Navy is supposed to be The Real Hero – even though they were too shit to defeat the aliens without it.
Battleship fails as an action film because it sacrifices action for fidelity to the game. It fails as a celebration of the game because it has none of the fun of playing it.
It might also be a subliminal recruitment video for the military, which means it’s evil as well as crap.