Transformers meets Top Gun in Peter Berg's new blockbuster Battleship, which has its origins in Hasbro's grid-based guessing game. Those fearing a tedious 2 hours of slow-moving naval strategy need not worry, this is a souped-up action-fest that's big, loud and ever-so-slightly silly (okay, very silly).
John Carter's Taylor Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, the down-and-out underachiever at the centre of the mayhem. Long-haired and booze-reliant (like his Friday Night Lights character Tim Riggins), he's given a buzz cut and a new lease of life when he's drafted into the navy by his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard). Hopper is temperamental and not one for following orders, but when a mysterious alien presence lands at sea he's forced to man up and lead a fleet against the threatening armada.
This is Berg doing his best Michael Bay impression - all sun-soaked money shots, blaring Steve Jablonsky score, flag-waving jingoism and cutaways to the Pentagon as government officials ponder armageddon. Thankfully, though, Battleship is free of the kind of excruciating comedy sidekicks and unappealing characters that have become Bayhem staples.
Kitsch's Hopper makes for a straight-laced, uncomplicated hero aboard the USS John Paul Jones. When part of the naval fleet is taken out, he must guide a crew that includes Petty Officer Cora Raikes (Rihanna in her screen debut), rival captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) and Ordy (Jesse Plemons). There's also Liam Neeson in his latest paycheque gig, playing the Admiral father of Hopper's girlfriend Sam (Brooklyn Decker), and a collection of tech geeks for Berg to juggle.
Admittedly, the whole endeavour is one big cheese-fest and somewhat akin to shoving 10 different movies into a blender and throwing the results up on screen. Top Gun's volleyball scene is substituted for a football game, the film's sci-fi disaster element is ripped straight out of Independence Day and Transformers, and there's a hefty dose of James Cameron in Rihanna's tough chick Raikes. Despite all that, this is still high on entertainment value and gives plenty of bang for the buck.
Battleship's clunky dialogue and ludicrous final-act plot twist would have sunk a film led by a lesser director, but Berg is able to bring a goofy charm to proceedings, notably in its inclusion of elements of the original Battleship game. The pegs and classic grid system will bring a smile to the face, although unfortunately there's no mention of the immortal line "you sunk my battleship". Maybe that's being saved for a sequel?
> Taylor Kitsch, Peter Berg Battleship interview