That sinking feeling you had – you were right

You may be familiar with the naval combat game Battleship: a strategic game based on sinking your opponent’s differently sized ships on a grid. Knowing that the film is based on this tea-time board game may sink your expectations.

Battleship is about an international fleet of ships in Hawaii that come across an alien reconnaissance team sent to Earth in response to a signal sent out by NASA a few years earlier. A fairly typical alien invasion movie ensues, along with a coming-of-age story for our hero, Alex (Taylor Kitsch).


Alex is a total trouble-maker who doesn’t know when to back down and has terrible decision-making skills. His brother (Skarsgård) forces him to join the navy and suddenly we jump ahead to RIMPAC, a conference of naval ships and personnel from many countries. It’s clear that Alex is still too impulsive and destructive – to the point that he’s going to be kicked out of the navy.  And yet somehow he manages to become second in command. How and why would that happen?


The film presents a lot of information that we as the audience are just expected to accept. We are given just enough information for the film to make sense, but nothing beyond that. There is a man at the satellite station in Hawaii, who states multiple times that the aliens will be more advanced than humans (using Columbus and the Indians as his metaphor). But this thought is never expanded upon. How did he come to that conclusion? It’s as if his character only says that so he can later say: “Told ya so!”. Alien invasion movies always feature the crazy guy who saw it coming (and wasn’t crazy after all!), as well as ridiculously advanced aliens as the enemy, which we somehow manage to defeat regardless.


Unfortunately, the film is terribly clichéd. Of course humanity is the underdog, because we always root for the underdog. The characters are generally underdeveloped, with the exception of the main character (and even his development is shallow). To that end, the acting was neither here nor there. It’s hard to pinpoint whether it was the acting, the writing or the direction that’s to blame for that. Maybe it’s just a combination of all three.


In many ways though, this film is just disaster porn, which is not at all unusual for this genre. The action sequences are well made and the special effects impressive. The grand scale of the destruction depicted is entertaining. The weapons the aliens used were somewhat clever. And surprisingly, the scene that emulates the game was well done and was as true to the game as possible in this context (although it was a relatively short scene, though that’s not entirely unexpected; the original game doesn’t really have a storyline).


Ultimately, the film is a great example of blockbuster marketing. There are so many elements of this film that simply scream sell! It promotes a classic game, it features a famous musical artist (Rihanna, who is featured prominently on the advertisements, though her role could have been played by anyone), and it most definitely promotes the navy (as well as the military in general). And in turn, all of these things help promote the film. Not to mention all the possibilities for merchandising. It seems fairly obvious that these are the motivating factors for making the film. Although it provides an entertaining two hours, there is not a lot of substance to be taken away from it.


Battleship (15)

Dir: Peter Berg, US sci-fi action, 2012, 130 mins;

Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson

Premiered: April 12

Playing: Nationwide