Tuesday, 17 April 2012



Here's a brief list of things you could do with two hundred million dollars. Build and staff some hospitals and schools. Feed the poor. Organise relief for the victims of natural disasters. Cure a few diseases. Sponsor good works left and right and generally make the world a better place. Or you could, at the very least, produce a slick and entertaining summer blockbuster with some laughs and thrills and spectacular effects. Sadly, Universal Pictures and Peter Berg have done precisely none of these things: they've decided to remake Transformers and Battle Los Angeles but with less wit and intelligence. The result is a senseless, moronic chimpanzee of a movie: bellowing and screeching incomprehensibly, flailing about all over the place and flinging its shiny wet faeces in your face for more than two deafening hours. Honestly: if Peter Berg had simply spent a year feeding that two hundred million dollars into an incinerator, it would still have been a substantially more productive use of the banknotes.

Whether Battleship is actually a worse film than Transformers 3 I'm not sure. Certainly it's on that level of brainless idiocy and a love of mass destruction that borders on the orgasmic and if you get off on the sight of toppling skyscrapers and exploding warships then this is the handjob for you. Back in 2005, we apparently found an Earth-like planet in another galaxy and promptly started sending signals out to it: in 2012 they respond by sending five giant destructorbot things to spearhead an invasion. One branches off for no immediately obvious reason and flattens most of Hong Kong, the others splashdown near Hawaii where fearsome US Navy Admiral Liam Neeson is conducting war games with a fleet of battleships and destroyers. Next thing you know: a socking great force field has appeared and the aliens are blasting the American Navy clear out of the water. To make matters worse, our hero isn't Liam Neeson but Taylor Kitsch, a tiresome slacker about to be dishonourably discharged from the Navy on a charge of being a bellend (specifically, fighting in a toilet). He's also in love with Neeson's comely daughter, a physical therapist working with Naval amputees in Hawaii - which is precisely where the aliens intend to base their invasion....

After an opening reel of dull character-based stuff (which would have been better if the leading man hadn't been a cardboard cutout of a leading man) the aliens show up and it's Transformers, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Independence Day and Battle Los Angeles all over again at full volume. Every five minutes a vast robot monster thing bursts out of the water and fires missiles into the sides of ships, and the ships fire all their missiles back at the vast robot monster thing. Meanwhile, there are huge whizzy yo-yo things that rip through metal and concrete and bring Hawaii's freeways crashing down. Somehow they do manage to shoehorn in the age-old game of Battleship complete with a numbered grid where they genuinely shout out "T19 - fire!" and then "Nope, missed."

Fair enough. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect any kind of depth from something based on a kids' game played with pencils and paper, and marketed by a toy company. Hasbro, let's face it, are not in the business of telling stories. But Universal Pictures are in the business of telling stories and they really haven't bothered here. If the aliens have come from a planet that's just like Earth, how come they can't bear Earth's sunlight? How come Kitsch hasn't been thrown out of the Navy already rather than promoted him at least once? Can you really drop anchor while at full speed ahead and force the ship into some kind of a sideways skid, like the cars in The Fast And The Furious? Isn't it just too coincidental that the aliens show up precisely during naval manoeuvres (if they'd arrived just one week later the place would have been completely undefended)? Most worryingly of all, does the post-credits teaser bit signal a Battleship 2? What other games are listed for the $200m treatment? Hangman? Noughts And Crosses? Gin Rummy?

It's more than a little depressing that of the two Taylor Kitsch movies so far this year, this is immeasurably the inferior, but will more likely be financially successful. John Carter was much underrated and ignored by the public, and I'm annoyed that it failed (though it probably will make its costs back eventually). But I'm more annoyed that Battleship, a brainless, soulless and charmless orgy of destruction and mayhem and things blowing up over and over again with a vast black chasm of endless nothingness going on underneath, is the one that's going to pull the punters in. It's one of those moments that make you despair of humanity as a species.


No comments: