There are many flaws that come out of Hollywood, but one in particular is brand recognition, in which the studios believe that anything is transferable to the big screen. Although great work has come out of comic books, video/board games can bring out the very worst of cinema. Whilst we are still awaiting the much-proposed Ridley Scott adaptation of Monopoly, toy company Hasbro (the home of Transformers) has turned their classic board game into a two-hundred-million-dollar alien invasion flick.
Despite his excellent naval skills in the US Navy, Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is wasting his life and will probably be kicked out after this year’s International Naval Wargames. However, just as his luck could not get any worse, alien ships from “Planet G” splash down in the waters off the Hawaiian Islands. The international naval fleet must fight back and Hopper must take charge of his ship and save the world.
When this was first announced, there was a level of trepidation towards the whole idea of this game-to-film translation and its director, Peter Berg, was well aware of the backlash. For him, he wanted to make a big summer blockbuster featuring an honest depiction of the US Navy, and although some might see this as a recruitment video (“join the Navy to whoop E.T.’s ass”), many will see this as pure escapist fun, very much like Independence Day.
Like the aforementioned Roland Emmerich extravaganza, screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber do not appear to have the minds for originality as the film has an ABC narrative in its genre as characters are established in stereotypical fashion. For instance, we have the hero (a post-John Carter Kitsch) as a life-waster who must step to the challenge, his brother has a more professional background (Alexander Skarsgard), the glamorous love interest (Brooklyn Decker) who happens to be the admiral’s (Liam Neeson) daughter, etc. There is nothing fresh in their performances and a lot of their dialogue is fairly ropey, although first-time actress Rihanna is surprisingly tough.
In terms of the aliens’ background, the prologue explains the upcoming arrival in pure Basil Exposition narrative as an attempt to make us interested in the science of it all, but apart from that, the aliens just want to blow up Hawaii.
This being based on a board game, there are moments that have to reflect the gameplay, such as the people within the battleship planning on where to shoot to the alien craft. Even though these scenes are so on the nose, Peter Berg manages to insert some thrills, without taking itself way too seriously. It may look or even sound like Michael Bay’s robot-infested franchise, however Peter Berg presents this as an 80’s actioner in the vein of Top Gun, in terms of music, military and cheesiness. Sadly, no one played Village People’s classic “In the Navy”.
DIRECTOR: PETER BERG
SCREENWRITERS: JON HOEBER, ERICH HOEBER
STARRING: TAYLOR KITSCH, ALEXANDER SKARSGARD, RIHANNA, BROOKLYN DECKER, LIAM NEESON
RUNTIME: 131 MINS APPROX.