Battleship

Directed by: Peter Berg

Written by: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Rhianna, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker and Liam Neeson

Don't be put off by what you've seen of Battleship, it's yet another example of marketing that's advertising the film as something that it's not. The fact that it's a Hasbro property does not make it Transformers 4; or War of the Worlds (where the aliens have been here all along etc). This is an alien invasion film where the aliens aren't invading. A group of scientists transmit a message across to a 'Goldilocks' planet with a climate identical to the earth they get a reply in the form of an alien armada here to inspect the planet. An international naval fleet participating in war games is isolated and when they attempt to engage the vastly superior alien ship and defence technology we're effortlessly obliterated…or are we?

The reluctant and flawed protagonist role is assayed by Berg's former Friday Night Lights alum, John Carter himself Taylor Kitsch. Kitsch plays Alex Hopper (a Tim Riggins proxy for FNL fans) who is directionless until a stunt to impress a girl (Brooklyn Decker) gets him into hot water with the police and his Naval Captain brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) demands that he get into the 'family business' to get his life together. He's brash, abrasive and aggressive; but ultimately he's endearing. Kitsch's strengths lay in his ability to mask the extraordinary potential of his character with impulsive thoughtlessness. I enjoyed how his initial opponent, Japanese Captain Nagata (Tadanobu Asano), becomes his partner in this seemingly impossible task of engaging with the Alien Armada. He has to relinquish control and work as a team to have any hope of survival.

Brooklyn Decker's Sam fulfils her role as the beautiful love interest of Alex whose father just happens to be Liam (Taken, The Grey) Neeson's daughter. Berg told us in our interview (link) that he wanted Alex (Kitsch) to have to ask the dad from Taken's daughter to marry him - and it has the desired effect. Neeson has a powerful presence as gruff Admiral Shane. Rihanna playing Raikes and Jesse Plemons as Ordy feel like homage to Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein in Aliens (but of course, inferior).

Director Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom, The Rundown, Friday Night Lights [Film &TV Series]) runs a sweeping, grandiose camera over the marvels of aquatic engineering. His languid, favourable cinematic eye is cast over the gigantic war vessels - even those that are destroyed by the armada. Berg's usually constantly moving camera (in confined spaces) are still here, but in a much more sporadic way. However Berg's focus on the human element in Battleship is what sets it apart from something like Transformers. Where Michael Bay wants to blow up the entire world and have robots beating the crap out of each other for the majority of the film, Battleship gives a good amount of screen time to getting to know the characters and focusing on their experience. The special effects by Lucas' ILM are fantastic. They integrate wonderfully with the real life actors and ships.

It is not without its flaws though. The American Triumphalist overtones at times had me humming the "America F*%K Yeah" theme from Team America. The idolatry for the Navy at times is palpable but I think what saves Battleship for me was that Berg contrasted his overwhelmingly positive view of Naval warfare and the bravery of the (predominantly U.S) soldiers is an authentic window into soldiers recovering from horrendous war injuries. And characters such as scientist Cal (Hamish Linklater) and his 'voice of reason/sarcasm' character is the source of a few choice self-effacing jokes that subtlety makes you aware that it is adhering to the conventions of the American super blockbuster - and therefore not taking itself too seriously. Despite the presence of plot devices (and holes) - the very conventions that usually make me detest action films - I surprisingly found myself not hating Battleship for it.

Battleship is an unapologetic marriage between a Sci-Fi & Navy/Military geek's wet dream; and the simple yet resonant premise works for it. It's a buttery, American triumphalist, generic, fluffy, cinematic popcorn escapism and the human element makes it more enjoyable than any of the Transformers flicks. 

[rating=3]

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman

BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.