Big bang the­ory

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - VICKY ROACH

BAT­TLE­SHIP ( M)

Di­rec­tor: Peter Berg Stars: Tay­lor Kitsch, Liam Nee­son, Alexan­der Skars­gard, Ri­hanna and Brook­lyn Decker

Misses the tar­get

WHOOPS. Ri­hanna just sank your so­lar-sys­tem- hop­ping Bat­tle­ship with a laser­guided, sur­face- to- air mis­sile!

In the $ 200 mil­lion film ‘‘ in­spired by’’ the clas­sic naval strat­egy board game, there is no need to imag­ine the ex­plo­sive ef­fects that ac­com­pany a suc­cess­ful strike.

Th­ese are re­alised in graphic au­dio- vis­ual de­tail, us­ing a good por­tion of the sci- fi ac­tion ad­ven­ture’s bud­get, with the help of Ge­orge Lu­cas’s vis­ual ef­fects house ILM. Hav­ing seen Gore Verbin­ski turn the

Pi­rates Of The Caribbean theme park ride into a swash­buck­ling film fran­chise and Michael Bay re­mould a line of plas­tic toys into a butt- kick­ing block­buster, Peter Berg ob­vi­ously felt the time was right to lend some se­ri­ous fire­power to a pre- WWII game that orig­i­nated on pen and pa­per. This ver­sion in­tro­duces a new di­men­sion to the clas­sic naval com­bat sce­nario – space.

The story un­folds on the seas, in the skies and over land, as mankind fights for sur­vival against a su­pe­rior force.

A naval his­tory buff, Berg’s pas­sion for and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of mil­i­tary strat­egy and nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer­ing shines through in the scenes aboard the US Navy’s de­stroy­ers, mis­sile cruis­ers and air­craft car­ri­ers.

But when the in­vad­ing alien re­con­nais­sance team em­ploys a dome- like force- field over a large por­tion of the Pa­cific – a nar­ra­tive con­ceit that al­lows the film­mak­ers to ar­ti­fi­cially con­tain the ac­tion – the film starts to lose its cen­tre of grav­ity.

The aliens are a rather anony­mous bunch in spite of their car­ti­lage beards, rep­til­ian eyes and four- fin­gered hands.

Their am­phib­ian space­craft, which re­sem­ble Trans­form­ers in their me­chan­i­cal shape- chang­ing abil­ity, are frus­trat­ingly hard to pin down.

Oddly enough, given the film’s whole­hearted en­thu­si­asm for vis­ual ef­fects,

Bat­tle­ship works best dur­ing the rel­a­tively low- tech se­quence that pays di­rect homage to the game upon which the film is based.

Given the alien in­vaders’ su­pe­rior de­fence sys­tems, our he­roes dis­cover they are bet­ter off em­ploy­ing old- school war­fare tac­tics, chart­ing the move­ment of the en­emy ships via wa­ter dis­place­ment.

There’s an al­most vis­ceral sense of en­croach­ing dan­ger as they mark their foes’ co- or­di­nates on a grid and a flag- wav­ing sense of sat­is­fac­tion ev­ery time they hit.

Berg has cho­sen pri­mar­ily fresh faces for his fol­low- up to Han­cock.

Ac­tion man- of- the- mo­ment Tay­lor Kitsch, with whom Berg pre­vi­ously col­lab­o­rated on the TV se­ries Fri­day Night Lights, has the phys­i­cal charisma re­quired to carry the lead in an ac­tion film.

Bar­ba­dian singer Ri­hanna doesn’t em­bar­rass her­self as a sassy, ur­ban weapons ex­pert, while model- turnedac­tress Brook­lyn Decker makes the most of her role as the lead­ing man’s ro­man­tic in­ter­est. Liam Nee­son has a small and rather thank­less role as an old- school ad­mi­ral.

The crude­ness of the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion and pro­duc­tion- line plot­ting sug­gests the sce­nario might have been bet­ter suited to a video game.

De­spite the ex­ten­sive arse­nal it has at its dis­posal, Bat­tle­ship fails to hit its tar­get.

SMASH­ING: Ri­hanna plays a sassy weapons ex­pert in Bat­tle­ship, which also stars Tay­lor Kitsch and Liam Nee­son, below.

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