Based on the Hasbro naval combat game, Battleship is the story of an international fleet of ships taking part in naval exercises, coinciding with the transmission of a communications project which goes further than ever into space, in an effort to contact intelligent life. Without warning, alien craft enter the earth's atmosphere but when the communications craft crashes into a satellite, it plunges to earth in Hong Kong. This sets off a chain reaction in which the other alien craft are engaged by the combined naval forces in the Pacific - in an uneven fight with the world's future at stake.
Review by Louise Keller:
With an onslaught of jaw-dropping visual effects, non-stop action and a narrative that delivers some surprises, Battleship booms onto the screen with style and scale. For the genre and its target young male audience, it's got a bit of everything - an alien invasion, antihero who saves the world, personal conflicts, a splash of romance and sprays of humour to relieve the tension. There are good contrasts of tone and the characters are well established - or well enough - to give the story ballast.
Leaping from his role on Mars as the Civil War vet in John Carter to that of a recalcitrant naval officer turned hero, Taylor Kitsch holds his own and brings a welcome knock-about touch to what could otherwise have become overly earnest. It's sheer video-game entertainment and the 132 minute running time flies almost as quickly as the firework filled offensive between human and alien.
When we first meet Alex Hopper (Kitsch), he is trying to impress a girl in a bar. The lengths to which he goes to get her the chicken burrito she craves, tells us that he has a crazy streak and is prepared to go to any lengths to get what he wants. Brooklyn Decker (Swimsuit Illustrated model and wife of tennis star Andy Roddick) plays the obligatory shapely blonde and to her credit, does it convincingly. There's a running gag involving Hopper and her disapproving Admiral father (Liam Neeson), to whom he must pluck up the courage to ask to marry his daughter. But all these things are put on hold when Hopper sets off on one of the battleships for a naval exercise between 13 nations.
Then it's time for the large scale, impressive visual effects to take over as the star of this sci-fi thriller; the alien ship taking the form of a transformer-like robotic structure with a myriad of deadly moving parts. There are gigantic, revolving tyre-like structures whipping through the air with swirls and explosions and a magnetic field that keeps the rest of the world at bay. The effects are heavy-duty and relentless. I especially like the idea of using the battleship game grid as one of the interesting left-of-field tactics employed to find the enemy, when their location is unknown. The trick is to find the aliens' Achilles' heel; I'll say no more, except that a lizard called Penelope has something to do with the discovery.
Songstress Rihanna is a perky presence as Raikes, a gung-ho on-board marine while Japanese star Tadanobu Asano is terrific as Nagata. Watch for the touching story strand involving Mick (Gregory D. Gadson), the soldier with two artificial legs who believes he is only half a man, until he can prove otherwise.
Production values are excellent and the pulsating rhythmic score that underlies all the action keeps time with the pumping of our hearts. The climactic sequence in which a historic outdated battleship with its crew of old timers get into the action is a fitting display of the knock-your-socks-off finale before the story strands are neatly gathered and make way from the rocky seas to rest ashore.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Battleship is a sci-fi David & Goliath story in which earthlings are David, facing a fearsome alien enemy whose technology is far superior - the kind of intelligent and awesome weaponry that only gamers could invent. Although we never learn why these aliens swoop on the earth, once they lose their comms ship they are in survival mode - as are we humans. So the stakes are as high as they can be, and the scale of the drama is enormous.
With its video game genesis, it's not entirely surprising that many of the elements are underdeveloped: early scenes of police publicly tasering our (then irresponsible) hero Alex Hooper (Taylor Kitsch) in the back over a misdemeanor invite incredulity. With deaths from tasers recently in the news, this is a sensitive subject and could have been reworked. Likewise the display of naïve behaviour when the navy first encounter the strange object that rises like a giant building in the ocean; lack of imagination and a trigger happy response suggests that Americans are naturally insular and foolish, and this is how writers expect their fellow Americans (even trained naval officers) to react. A terrifying thought.
But perhaps I'm being too analytical for what is a shoot-em-up movie. Then again, maybe not ...
Does the film work, that's the question. Well yes, it does what it sets out to do for its target audience, although it takes until the third act to really engage us, after some 90 minutes of mayhem, with lots of mayhem music. Big, heavy, dread & awe...) For anyone looking for the ultimate in visual gratification, cool weaponry and stunning effects, there is enough to sink a ship, as it were. Digital display systems and other fancy stuff abounds.
To give the film a human connection, it begins with Alex being an irritating, irresponsible twit, who falls in love with the beautiful Sam (Brooklyn Decker aka Mrs Andy Roddick) - who happens to be the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson, the big old gun of the cast). After a rapid (and unseen by us) entry into the Navy thanks to his sailor bother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), Alex finds himself facing the strange alien thing sticking out of the ocean. But this first electric encounter (you'll see what I mean) is nothing compared to what's to come.
In the near future he's going to have to see several destroyers in the international fleet blasted into pieces and many lives lost, including his own captain and other senior officers - leaving him in charge. He gets good back up from Rihanna as Raikes, a plucky young officer who also looks great.
On land, it's the nerdy communications operator on the top of Hawaii's mountains (where the dishes have been built) who is providing the technical briefing. While the battle for the world rages offshore, Samantha is providing physio to the legless, depressed Lt Col Mick Canales (Col. Gregory D. Gadson - powerful, excellent) who finds a new purpose in life as conditions deteriorate.
The film's superbly written, choreographed and directed climactic sequence washes away any reservations, as the big old gun of the US Navy, the battleship USS Missouri, is called to duty after 70 years as a museum - along with a bunch of vets who served on her and are the only ones who know how to make her the fighting ship she used to be. It's cinematic gold and rescues not only the world but the film as well.
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CAST: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Col. Gregor D. Gadson, Peter MacNicol, Jesse Plemons, Josh Pence
PRODUCER: Peter Berg, Sarah Aubrey, Brian Goldner, Duncan Henderson, Bennett Schneir, Scott Stuber
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
SCRIPT: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tobias A. Schliessler
EDITOR: Colby Parker Jnr, Billy Rich
MUSIC: Steve Jablonski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Neil Spisak
RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 12, 2012
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.