You’re going to see a lot of negative reviews of Battleship.
It’s a film where almost all the action takes place inside the bubble of a strange alien forcefield. One where if anyone tried to introduce any scientific rigour, narrative logic or good old-fashioned common sense the bubble would collapse, taking the entire movie with it.
But I find it hard to dislike a movie that strolls into the cinema with its tongue lodged so very firmly in its cheek.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell: In a response to a METI (no, not SETI) experiment run by some guy who isn’t Jemaine from Flight Of The Conchords, five alien spacecraft show up – conveniently in the middle of a giant naval exercise in the Pacific. Bayhem ensues.
No, really, that’s it.
Peter Berg has a bit of fun with us first. He throws in a comedy drunken burrito robbery that advances neither plot nor character, and then does the same thing with a comedy soccer game.
After that, he sets up the fan and makes sure the poop hits it. Most of it is on target. Anything that can blow up almost certainly will.
He’s assembled a likeable cast: There’s a good mix of textbook military action and comedy broadsides from both Taylor Kitsch (from John Carter and Friday Night Lights) and Alexander Skarsgård (from True Blood and not enough feature films by half).
Liam Neeson bookends the film with some standard gruff military dadstuff. Brooklyn Decker plays his refreshingly non-screamy daughter adequately, if not well.
Oh yeah, and Rihanna’s in it. Her part is bigger than you might expect and her performance is better than you might expect. Having said that, Meryl Streep can sleep easy.
There are a couple of other performances that I liked too, but I can’t really say much about them without spoiling the paper-thin plot.
There are some laughs that are deliberate. There are some laughs that might not be deliberate, but they’re still laughs. And yes, there is a bit where they are effectively playing the board game.
Everyone is clearly having a lot of fun here. No-one should take this film seriously and it doesn’t seem as if anybody in the cast or crew does. That’s not to say that the production values – especially the stellar CGI work – aren’t top notch. They are. I particularly liked the not-at-all-standard alien creature design and the cool, although apparently not very effective, Halo ODST armour the bad guys wore.
The aliens don’t seem to have any clear game plan other than call for backup, and they don’t even seem to shoot first. They’re also curiously moral about not shooting at anyone who’s unarmed or incapacitated. Considering that they never speak, even to each other, they come across as strangely sympathetic cannon-fodder.
By contrast with the average action movie, there are plenty of moments for older actors, female actors, and disabled actors to kick some alien ass. Completely flouting generic action movie tradition, we get a couple of non-caucasian characters who have more to do than just catch a poignant bullet.
Considering how openly silly Battleship is, it’s a very smart movie.
You’re going to see a lot of negative reviews of Battleship, but you won’t see one from me. This is a film that sets its sights low, and blows the hell out of them.