As testament to the US industrial/military complex, this film is second to none. As a symptom of how far Liam Neeson has fallen, this is unrivalled. As a Big Stupid, Pointless and Noisy movie, it has no rivals. But as a way to spend 2 hours and £10, it is a complete waste of time. It's Transformers at Sea. All at sea. We've been here 100 times before. Young tearaway finds the love of a good woman, joins the Navy, falls out with commanding officer, and father of the babe in question (Liam Neeson, since you ask), and is on the brink of career disaster before real disaster strikes, in the form of a bunch of aliens who land in the ocean off Hawaii, and proceed to wreak devastation all around them. Only young Hopper (our hero) can stand between the metal monsters and the destruction of civilisation as we know it.
The telling of the story on the page takes two seconds; in the film, it's over 2 hours, though nothing of any interest happens during that time. We get the backstory of Hopper messing up his life; the impending catastrophe of his dismissal, and eventually, the large objects that drop into the ocean and start going all Transformers. They clunk and clank and morph into even bigger and nastier machines that lay waste to everyone and everything in sight, though curiously not the hero and his handful of helpers. It seems as if all must be lost. They are – guess what? – unstoppable. Except that in fact they're not.
There's a chink in their armour – isn't there always? And that chink is what saves mankind, yet again. All this is par for the course and something we've come across from Independence Day to Battle:Los Angeles. It goes with the territory But even within the limited parameters of this 'Aliens Trying To Destroy Planet Earth' sub-genre, Battleship is spectacularly inept. None of the characters have an iota of originality; the plot is not so much half-baked as non-existent; and the whole thing is coated in an appalling soundtrack, which mixes sentimental military music with third rate heavy metal rubbish. We are meant to worship at the altar of military might, naval heroism, and American can do persistence, but all that happens is that director Peter Berg throws so much rubbish at the screen in an attempt to generate any enthusiasm, that we end up in a state of paralysed indifference.
The excuse for this clumsy beast is a game I used to play as a child, using pencils and squared paper, which later became a board game. The American conglomerate who owns the company through which the board game is made (as well as Transformers) has decided that movies (and computer games spinoffs) are the way to go, and since the Transformers franchise has been so successful, they have simply replicated the formula in a wetter environment.
Doubtless hordes of undemanding kids will sit through this, relishing the noise, chaos and mass destruction of property, but for any discerning viewers, this really is an experience you can afford to miss. Alternatively, just take one saucepan and one metal spoon, place the pan next to your head and hit it repeatedly with the spoon. This will do what the film does, cost you nothing, and won't need to go on for 2 hours.
By Phil Raby
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