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Off all the well known brands waiting to be turned into a film franchise, Hasbro's board game Battleship was certainly an odd choice. The game, which revolves around a mixture of luck and tactics, was adapted into 2012's blustering blockbuster to much head-scratching and mirth. So was Battleship doomed to sink from the start or is it a behemoth with a surprising amount of bravado?
It wasn't much of a surprise to learn that the plot is scant at best, with an opening that revolves around central character Alex Hopper's (Taylor Kitsch) quest for a chicken burrito providing the instant indication of the choppy waters that Battleship is heading towards right from the off. It is clear that the writers put in as little effort as Kitsch does in the central role, with both being bland and clearly drawing inspiration from Michael Bay's Transformers and Shia LaBeouf's laughably poor central performances.
It makes little sense then to drag out such a generic plot (failed character becomes hero by defeating alien invasion) for over forty actionless minutes, providing a ton of exposition that will have zero relevance within a matter of seconds. Add to this the seemingly random introduction of characters who are given no introduction and who disappear mere minutes later and it becomes clear where all of the budget went.
Battleship does equally little when it comes to the action either, somehow managing to be even less memorable than Transformers (an impressive feat in itself). Director Peter Berg tries to be both profound and punchy, resulting in highly patriotic reflective moments on human mortality and the pains of war, seemingly forgetting the type of film he is making.
Real life US Navy sailors were cast in the film, including war veterans, in a frankly infuriating attempt to raise the calibre and karma of Battleship. Dressing up such a film as anything but a dumb, by the numbers blockbuster is completely insulting and moronic.
As with the rest of the film, the design of the invading aliens also looks recycled from a million other movies and even faintly ridiculous. The sound design is horribly jarring too and pretty unpleasant, with an excessive use of static effects and jarring "glitches."
The oddest element of the film is the mismatch of actors that form the cast, with veteran Liam Neeson (best known for his star turn in Schindler's List and recent transformation into aged action star) consigned to a distant role where he does little more than shout a bit while newcomer Rihanna (best known for tracks such as S&M and Rude Boy) is plunged right into the center of the action.
By far the most unique scene in Battleship is when they attempt to dramatise a real life version of said game, predicting where the enemy ships are moving too and best exposing the blatant shallowness of the whole concept. Playing Battleship isn't exactly the most exciting activity so watching others play it is pretty much the definition of boredom. All the slow motion and quick cuts (which Berg overuses more than Zack Snyder) can't make this 20 minute section even remotely interesting.
As with Transformers, Battleship opts for volume over quality in every area with terribly written comedy sitting alongside poorly idealised action while a scattered jigsaw of actors run around like scriptless chickens. It becomes ever clearer throughout that the Battleship brand was slapped onto this soulless and vapid film simply for the big bucks, leaving us with a waterlogged and rapidly capsizing titanic of a film.