I don't think I was the only person wondering what the hell Hollywood was thinking when they decided to adapt a classic board game into a summer blockbuster. One thing I can say is that they didn't fail entirely. Keeping some clever board game references, Peter Berg has managed to craft a pretty entertaining spectacle that is no Avengers, but that does just fine considering the source material. Hit the jump for my review of the film, which hits theaters in South Africa on 4 May, and in the USA on 18 May.
The plot is typically unoriginal Hollywood alien invasion fare: scientists send a signal to a distant planet which may or may not be able to sustain life, and are greeted with a response that is, to say the least, hostile. It also happens to be during the start of the biggest multinational naval exercise ever, implying that there be sea-bound firepower aplenty. At the center of the story is Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who happens to be dating the Admiral's daughter, and his crew, trapped inside a giant force field containing 5 waterborne alien ships and a few Destroyers. Because it's a force field, most of the brawling is left to them. I'll leave what happens next to you, but I'm sure it's pretty easy to guess. Comparisons have been drawn to Transformers, but a more appropriate analogy is probably Independence Day. Common traits abound, from the (cheesy) humor to the plot difficulties.
What Peter Berg does best though is build tension. I was on the edge of my seat for much of the film, and only towards the end, when the plot started falling apart a bit and the implausibilities became impossible to ignore, did I begin to think that this may actually not be such a great film. The visuals are superb (barring one or two instances of poor CGI), and the action set pieces breathtaking. This all goes down to the tune of a rocking soundtrack, featuring the likes of ACDC, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Black Keys and even Band of Horses. As for the aliens, I loved their technology! Their ships were animalistic, color coded and hopping about in the Pacific like giant mechanical sea lice; and the aliens themselves looked more than a little menacing in their Halo-like armor. There were some weak CGI moments, but in an ocean of glorious Hollywood spectacle, this is easily overlooked.
The most important part of these films is of course the script and the performances. Taylor Kitsch really does have the makings of a star, and his supporters are more than adequate. Even Rihanna didn't do a bad job. And, unlike in Transformers, the humor worked very well (for the most part). That's where it ends though: the dialogue was atrocious in parts, and quite a number of cheesy one liners and piss poor plot developments ruined it a bit towards the end. Without spoiling anything, I urge you to keep an eye out for a boxing match I'd rather forget, and a Space Cowboys element which woke me from my popcorn movie buzz quite rudely. I must admit though, the references to the board game were great (without being obstructive), and the cleverly obscured f-bombs will keep me laughing for a while. A final gripe is that the climax was a spectacular letdown, possibly because of the excellent build up though.
In the end, is Battleship worth your time? Most definitely. It's far more entertaining than some of the efforts we saw last year, and shows that 2012 really is looking to be a spectacular year for movies. The box office figures at the end of this year are going to be a sight to behold. If this film didn't stumble in the third act, it could have scored 8 or more easily.
7 out of 10.