Battleship: Reviewed by Kamran Jawaid for Dawn.com

This post is the unedited copy of the review published at Dawn.com on 27th April 2012. The published version is linked at the end of the post.

Battleship-Blog-1

Blow-em-Up, Mow-em-Down! The Art of the Alien Takeover.

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

There’s a lesson to be learned from “Battleship”, the new big-budget actioner screening across Pakistani multiplexes: Never contact ET without stocking up on, big, alien-busting guns.

A handful of trapped Navy men with battered, limited, resources, take down invading aliens in “Battleship”. Yes, no need to say this. I know. It’s that kind of a movie where the lead, an arrogant incautious douche (the only word I can think of in the dictionary that best describes him) – already in hot-water – is put in-charge by fate as humanity’s last bastion. At least for this round.

The douche of the occasion is Taylor Kitsch (playing Alex Hopper), who, in his second event movie in this pre-summer line, improves on the vacant expressions he ported over from “John Carter”.

Mr. Kitsch is a perfect fit on paper. When we first see him, he’s a wayward 20-something without a 5-year plan, who immediately falls for the Admiral’s daughter (Brooklyn Decker playing Samantha Shane). Her wooing – he gets her a burrito by breaking into a 7-11 mart, getting tasered by the police – is perhaps the best comedy relief in the movie. He isn’t better years later, when his brother has forced him into the Navy.

“Battleship” is a constantly revved-up engine that takes a substantial amount of time setting up its characters. One-dimensional, though they may be; apart from Mr. Kitsch’s Hopper, we pick up specs of backstories from supporting players between conversations. However, there’s no time to fit more of that in, because the screenplay goes all gung-ho from the mid-point after the ET’s colossal ships, and their angry red “auto-roller balls of fury” tear up the coastline.

Somewhere, within this brawling blitzkrieg, I felt an admiration for the screenplay’s resourcefulness in adaptability. Working from the minimalist idea of Hasbro’s board game, the film stuffs its one-line plot chock-full of elements, which although sidetracking and a tad stretchy, are engaging (and sometimes inventive) enough to clutch interest.

Think of “Battleship” as Transformers Jr., without the hulked-up talking robots. It is big, loud, a bit insecure, somewhat overlong, and lots of fun – at least if you’re into gargantuan, technologically advanced alien ships taking down the planet; and it’s not meant for the smaller screens (and yes, big-screen HDTV’s count as well).

The plot begins in 2005 where enthusiastic NASA people send out an intergalactic “hello” via a new-tech satellite array to a far-flung extrasolar planet. Obviously, like all movie scientists, they do not heed Stephen Hawking’s theory about superior ET’s and their scavenger-like stance for us humans. The aliens do not call back. Instead they send out a welcoming committee of five souped-up ships that splash near Hawaii and barricade themselves in an impenetrable force-field.

Caught within are Alex, the film’s immediate supporting cast (Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Asano Tadanobu, and Liam Neeson on the other side), three Navy Destroyers and the retired USS Missouri (the Battleship of the title). The ships, by wayward luck found in sci-fi movies, were a part of RIMPAC (an international biennial joint-Navy exercise), so they’re armed for ET-thrashing.

Need I say more?! Didn’t think so.

One word of advice, though. Ditch the pop-corn. It’s getting way too expensive (though not as expensive, or good-looking as the movie).

Released by Universal and Footprint Entertainment; Directed by Peter Berg (ala “Hancock” and “Rundown” in full Michael Bay-mode); Written by Jon and Erich Hoeber (“Red”, “Whiteout”); “Battleship” is based on the board game by producers Hasbro.

The sensory onslaught is rated PG-13. A lot of digital landscape – including sprawling motorways, a baseball field and Hong Kong – eat dust.

Dawn.com version is: http://dawn.com/2012/04/27/movie-review-battleship/

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