MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
From the toy company that brought you Transformers and with a cascade of explosions which would make Michael Bay cringe (alright, maybe not), Battleship somehow, inexplicably, is one of the most joyous two hours of cinema stupidity you’ll ever experience. Battles will ship. Ships will battle. And it’s bloody awesome, tongue in cheek fun.
This is where I’d normally offer the film’s premise but I must make one thing clear: unlike so many stupid blockbusters, Battleship is utterly aware of its own stupidity. Earth discovers similar planet possibly containing life. Earth sends out signal. Aliens discover signal. Aliens invade. Taylor Kitsch plays young renegade Alex Hopper who gets sent to join the Navy. Ships battle aliens. Kitsch leads ships. Explosions, explosions, explosions. EXPLOSIONS. Oh, and how the explosions explode. I don’t know if it was the awesomely huge sound mixing or the epic scale of the shots, but explosion after explosion it just felt massive and more satisfying than any CGI explosion movie I’ve seen for as long as I can remember.
So what else separates director Peter Berg’s efforts from the studio pulped, punch-facingly awful inanity of the Transformers franchise and similar efforts? Well, Battleship actually has a little bit of charm. Not loads, but a little, and in a film like this a little goes an awfully long way. It packs every blockbuster convention into its two hour running time with knowing winks and overwrought, ridiculously cheesy lines which are so over the top but because of this, they feel so wonderfully satisfying. It knows it’s a trashy blockbuster with more money than sense but my word, does it exploit that wonderfully. For example, there’s your typical love story which the film knows it hasn’t made the effort to develop. It plays out like your typical Hollywood romantic convention and it’s fully aware of how it’s been shoved in, in the end treated with a light comic touch such an effort deserves.
Berg asks his Friday Night Lights veterans Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons to essentially just transport their characters from small town Texas to gargantuan CGI absorbed action heroes, which works just fine. I wasn’t sure from the trailer, but Kitsch absolutely leads the film and I thought he made a really great screen presence even if he lacked the real opportunity to show off the acting chops that FNL fans know he has. He’s had a strange young career, moving straight from that critically acclaimed but little viewed drama series and on to leading roles in the biggest of the big blockbusters whilst most unknown actors have to work their way up (Kitsch has just come off the back of spectacular CGI flop John Carter). But I have no doubt we’ll be seeing lots more of him after this. As an aside, I don’t know what it says about me, but it took my mum to point out Rihanna (making her acting debut) and she does what most of the supporting cast do throughout: look scared and fire rockets. And damn, do they do it fine.
This is a movie that did that very rare thing: it left me sitting down with a massive great grin on my face throughout. Beaming and filled with childish happiness but not even in a guilty pleasure sort of way, but just making me feel: “You know what? This is bloody great fun”. It certainly feels like it was made by a 12 year old boy on sugar, admittedly, but unlike so many similar efforts it retains something rather innocent, while still holding all the glossy polish (and more) that we are accustomed to with these big budget movies. Whatever others may say, I have no doubt every line is written and delivered fully aware of its own silliness and cheesiness, oozing both features deliciously, whilst every explosion explodes with more fun than Bay could dream of. Fair play, Hasbro and Peter Berg. What a corker.
Battleship is out on 11th April in the UK and 18th April in the US. Running time 131 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).
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Review by David Rank