Board games don’t always make for great movies, surprisingly enough


That sinking feeling: Tadanobu Asano and Taylor Kitsch in Battleship. (C) 2012 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Tadanobu Asano, Liam Neeson
Time Out rating:

So here we are: the children's game Battleship has been transformed into a big-screen blockbuster that takes longer and is considerably less fun. I'll leave it to others to debate the merits of raiding the toy cupboard when looking for inspiration on what to spend $200 million on next, but it would be remiss not to address what's surely the most pressing matter in the reader's mind: alas, at no point does this film contain the line, ‘You sunk my battleship.’

In fact, fans of the Hasbro board game may be disappointed by how scant the resemblance is. The logical thing would have been to set Battleship in the days before the advent of radar, but instead we're given a tortuous premise in which a naval fleet is pitted against high-tech alien spaceships attempting to send a signal home and green-light the invasion of the planet. Though the screenwriters do eventually contrive a scenario in which the characters are forced to pore over a grid, taking potshots at an enemy they can't see, it's merely a brief distraction before the next round of CGI-enhanced bombast.

Our hero in all of this is Lt. Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch, whose John Carter also opens in Japan this weekend), a wastrel who's hoping to get hitched with the vice admiral's daughter but looks more likely to get himself thrown out of the navy altogether. But when aliens intervene in a routine naval exercise, Hopper gets a chance to redeem himself, assisted by a haphazardly chosen support cast that includes Tadanobu Asano (less awkward than in Thor), pop star Rihanna (meh) and real-life military veteran and amputee Greg Gadson, who clearly didn't get here on the basis of his dramatic talents.

Such demographic box-ticking is standard practice in films like this, but where Battleship flounders worst is in its spectacle – or, more accurately, its lack thereof. Despite boasting a solid resume, director Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) handles his set-pieces like a hot potato, offering flub and bluster when what we want is wham-bam. Jittery camerawork, rapid edits and portentous music keep the viewer in a constant state of excitation, yet there isn't a single scene in the film that's genuinely exciting, or a shot that lingers in the mind after the adrenaline rush subsides. Given that Hasbro's last trip to Hollywood was with the Transformers franchise, this probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise. I can't wait to see what they do with My Little Pony, though.

Battleship opens nationwide on April 13

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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