This Battleship deserves to sink without trace and shows Tinseltown at its most tawdry

Chris Tookey


23:49 GMT, 12 April 2012



23:51 GMT, 12 April 2012

This week showed us Hollywood at its best — The Cabin In The Woods. It was perhaps inevitable it would also bring us Tinseltown at its most tawdry. Battleship is trash.

Not even distantly related to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, it comes at you courtesy of many of the people who gave us the Transformers movies, including the toymaker Hasbro (yes, it’s vaguely, and at times laughably, based on the board game), so it’s no surprise it’s noisy, violent and brainless.

But even for an alien invasion movie, it’s excruciating. Compared to this, Independence Day was subtle and sensitive. Hell, even last year’s Battle: Los Angeles was smarter.

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The kiss-off: Brooklyn Decker and Taylor Kitsch

The kiss-off: Brooklyn Decker and Taylor Kitsch in alien invasion movie Battleship

After 2011’s Cowboys Versus Aliens, this year it’s sailors versus aliens. Yup, that’s the plot.

What are the positives Well, Taylor Kitsch seems slightly less like an animatronic puppet than he did in John Carter, but he still has to spout way too much cringeworthy dialogue as the impetuous hero — a naval update of Tom Cruise in Top Gun — who has to learn in battle what it means to be a real man.

Early on, he’s pointlessly violent and borderline racist — he takes a penalty in football and tells a Japanese opponent: ‘I’m the idiot who’s going to kick the ball through your goalkeeper’s face.’

By the end of the movie he’s learned to channel his aggression. I suppose that’s a good thing, but it didn’t make me like him any better.

Liam Neeson, slumming as shamelessly as he did in Wrath Of The Titans, makes a half-hearted attempt to invest the proceedings with dignity as an admiral about to suffer the cataclysmic misfortune of becoming our hot-headed hero’s father-in-law.

Also prominent on the posters in her big-screen debut, pop star Rihanna plays a naval gunner, so she gets to do a lot of shooting with impressively big guns while yelling: ‘Boom!’ Perhaps that will be enough for her fans.

The running-around-with-not-many-clothes-on role goes to blonde, long-legged bimbette Brooklyn Decker (previously best known as tennis player Andy Roddick’s model wife) who struggles to pass for romantic interest.

She’s saddled with a drearily predictable sub-plot about a chip-on-the-shoulder former marine (Gregory D. Gadson) who’s lost both his legs and considers himself half a man, but discovers that he has an important role to play in saving the world.

Mostly, this involves knocking an alien’s teeth out in slow motion, which is supposed to cheer us up in the same way Will Smith did when punching an alien unconscious in Independence Day.

It’s too bad the aliens are noisier and more boring than ever. The one thing they seem to have in mind is becoming easily merchandised toys.

Their most interesting aspects — why they have goatee beards and attack only weaponry and not people — are never explained. Maybe the explanations are somewhere on the cutting-room floor.

Other awkward plot points are ignored or drowned out. The movie lasts a bewilderingly over-extended 131 minutes, of which the final 90 are just a series of ear-splitting explosions battling with a screaming heavy metal soundtrack.

At one point, it sounded as though all four members of Metallica were being fed through a meat-grinder. If you don’t suffer from hearing loss when you go in, you may by the time you get out.

Peter Berg directs as though he has taken a correspondence course in vacuous overkill from Michael Bay. But really, this is film-making by committee. It’s like a dozen other movies tossed into a blender.

The screening I attended contained hundreds of youthful non-critics, but even they were laughing at the clunkiness of the dialogue, the gung-ho idiocy of the heroes and the ridiculously belated attempt at a plot twist.

As for me, I was silently cheering on the aliens and wondering when on Earth the agony would end.

Now watch the trailer