Big bang theory
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.