Michael Bay-inspired blockbuster burdened by bog-standard plot and uneven tone
Peter Berg's Battleship delivers the spectacle you’d expect from a summer blockbuster but it’s ultimately sunk by uneven tone and a paper thin plot. Inspired by the Hasbro board-game, Battleship is part Michael Bay-inspired planet-trashing mayhem and part love letter to the US Navy, with whom the director shares an intimate family history (his father was both a former marine and an amateur Navy historian).
Wayward Lieutenant Alex Hopper (John Carter's Taylor Kitsch) is forced to take responsibility when aliens invade the waters around Hawaii and threaten to destroy Earth. He does this with the help of his land-based girlfriend Samantha (ex-model Brooklyn Decker), a double amputee veteran (played by real-life US Army Colonel Greg Gadson), and a no-nonsense weapons specialist (pop superstar Rihanna).
Berg's film is at its popcorn best while setting things up, both in terms of introducing Kitsch's likeable central character, and introducing the aliens themselves by way of a tense mid-ocean stand-off. But as the film progresses the tone veers wildly between gung-ho action, unintentional humour and shameless jingoism. The aliens, meanwhile, lack any real menace, thereby allowing the early tension to dissipate and the film to become a countdown to the inevitable military tub-thumping and character redemptions.
If anything, Battleship suffers from this decision to pitch things around a bog-standard alien invasion plot rather than really making use of Berg's military knowledge or the unique access he has been granted to the Navy. By adhering to blockbuster conventions, the director has missed an opportunity to genuinely freshen up the genre.
General release from Weds 11 April.