Friday, 20 April 2012

191, Battleship

Not many Boardgames get made into movie blockbusters.  Hasbro (the company also behind Transformers) developed battleships for the common game playing audience by asking each player to position their ships strategically on a board, blind to their opponent and it was taken in turns to call out grid references (D1, A7 etc) until the much appreciated "hit!" resounded from the other side of the screen - then after a few successive strikes the all familiar words of "you sunk my battleship" could be heard and it was game over - so turning this basic 1 on 1 classic into a multi million $ blockbuster was always going to be a toughie as well as keeping to the origins of the game - well against all belief, they seem to have managed it.

Firstly, lets start on the basics - a cleverly thought out 'old school' game of cat and mouse takes place mid way through the movie pitting the wits of the weapons team on a battleship, blinded by alien technology against a far superior race of Aliens.  Restricted use of satellite due to the alien involvement means the US Navy have to rely on a tsunami wave alert system, used to grid out the ocean using basic radar technology with the ship central on their ZX Spectrum style display, plotting grid references as the alien ship surfaces on the screen to fire missiles at it as it hones in on their location - basic game play but key to the title and allowing the movie remaining core to its origins.  Something I greatly enjoyed.
So with the Battleship element explained, onto the cast - Taylor Kitch, fresh from the disastrous 'John Carter' really proves himself in this as the lead and regains (hopefully) a whole heap of respect from movie goers as he blends comedy, stupidity and navy style heroism at every turn, even including a rip-off 'You Tube' sketch of a botched shop robbery but for those who are familiar with the original will chuckle along. 

Liam Neeson is brilliant, albeit it to sparsely used as he is stuck for most of the movie outside the alien barrier but true to American form - manages to arrive just in the nick of time.  Then there's Rhianna, not there as I initially though as the "Erika Eleniak" character so cheekily portrayed in 'Under Siege' but an actual gun toting action babe, who although doesn't have much to say manages to avoid barring flesh for kicks and actually acts, using actual acting talent and on merit alone, deserves her role among the great cast. 

There are plenty of other actors as well who pitch in and to be honest - none really let the side down and there are mini sub-plots bouncing throughout to keep the story alive and not making it just about a board game.

Now the Aliens.  Well as humanoid (ish) organic life forms, requiring heavy duty sunglasses to deal with our Sun's light they are actually well though out - the special effects of the ships are on parr with that of Michael Bay's Transformers although it still is a bit off the pace and action levels that Optimus and Bumblebee manage to display but nevertheless I felt they were well perceived. 

The action not only takes place on the Battleship, but Kitche's Mrs (and daughter to Admiral Neeson) unknowingly manage to leads a ground attack as they try to stop the Alien involvement on Hawaii, with the bad guys using our tracking satellites against us and signalling to their planet to come and help out with the invasion.  By enrolling the help of a techno nerd and an ex-Marine with replacement legs after losing them in Afghanistan (I think) our unlikely trio manage to stage a full scale defence with great success! 

Sadly though - there is also a downside and if you are a stickler for realism (forgetting the aliens etc) then you will be disappointed in the way they manage to chuck these full scale warships around (including the retired SS Missouri).  Ever though of reversing a ship of that size from stationary to the point is almost wheel spins out of the way of a torpedo or even using the anchor to complete handbrake turns?  Well, whats not to love in a Hollywood American blockbuster as Kitch manages to pull both off as if its as simple as a walk in the park and he manages to enrol a group of ageing retired Navy men (and I believe original crew of the Missouri) to help out as the mechanics of the ship are too dated for our current band of brothers to operate.  Its basically Space Cowboys on water.  Very O.T.T, but comical just the same.

For action and robot buffs then this is actually really good - not to realistic on the alien & Battleship front but manages to stay true to its origins (in part) and as far as movie versions of board games goes - well it did its job.  Lets just hope Downfall, Connect 4 & Ker plunk get the same treatment - now that will be Dull!