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Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2012). Universal Pictures presents in association with Hasbro a Bluegrass Films and Film 44 production. Directed by Peter Berg. Written by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber. Cast includes Tadanobu Asano, Brooklyn Decker, Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna and Alexander Skarsgård. 131 minutes. Colour.

Toy manufacturer Hasbro here tries to replicate the success of its toys-to-film Transformers franchise by wedding Military SF to World War Two-style heroics. The genuine Wargame "Battleship", then known as L'Attaque, was first played among French naval officers during World War One. It was released commercially by a number of companies as a pen and paper guessing game during the 1930s and 1940s, and thereafter continually updated according to cheaply available Technology, first as a Board Game using plastic trays and pegs, then as a computerized Toy that had by the 1980s developed the ability to speak to its players. Its use as a Computer Wargame is widespread. A 2010 version using hexagonal tiles and islands adapted by Hasbro for Videogame consoles forms the basis of this film adaptation.

The setting is contemporary. Good-for-nothing layabout Alex Hopper (Kitsch) follows his elder brother (Skarsgård) into the navy, only to find himself amid an oceanic Alien vanguard designed to ascertain the Earth's readiness for War. "Goldilocks" Planet G – Earth's mirror in everything except a deep and abiding yearning for American military hegemony – has sent five ships in response to a NASA signal broadcast by a SETI-style "Beacon Project" based on Oahu. The aliens – albino-humanoid reptiliomorphs with four-fingered fairground-grabber hands – soon engineer a hostile response from a US-led naval force on manoeuvres in the Pacific, taking out the fleet with an electromagnetic pulse and sinking the ship captained by Hopper's elder brother in the process. The younger Hopper must then "achieve his potential" in the ensuing engagement; moreover, with the fleet foundering, he is obliged to enlist the help of the veterans aboard "museum ship" the USS Missouri, the only analogue vessel in the vicinity. A Japanese rival (Asano), a wise-cracking gunner (Rihanna) and the admiral's daughter (Decker) assist him in his task via visual tropes lifted from sf Invasion classics Predator (1987) and The Terminator (1984): weapons brandished produce a RED response in the aliens' on-board software, and passivity registers GREEN – ie no "peace-keeping" required. Well-constructed battle sequences take us to a last-bullet denouement that consciously evokes the Death Star moment in Star Wars (1977): blinded by Earth's sunlight, not to mention the undying brilliance of its war veterans, these aliens cannot prevent their mothership from going up in computer-generated flames. [MD]


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