For Hollywood the notion of turning a set of shape-changing toys into a blockbuster film franchise was clearly child’s play. Here Michael Bay wannabe Peter Berg gets to spin a movie out of a board game.
It takes a good while, though, for the story to exploit the game’s grid-based manoeuvres. First we encounter the cocky scientists trying to make interstellar contact with distant Planet G, a so-called ‘Goldilocks planet’ that may possibly sustain life. Then we meet the even cockier Alex (John Carter star Taylor Kitsch), a hot-headed slacker whose boozy efforts to impress blonde stranger Samantha (blandly decorative swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker) end up with him joining the US Navy alongside his sober, straight-arrow brother (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård) to get out of trouble with the law.
Cut to an unspecified time in the future and Alex is a no-less-hot-headed navy lieutenant taking part in multinational sea games off Hawaii and at odds with the US fleet’s commander, who just happens to be the lissome blonde’s dad (a scowling Liam Neeson). Unfortunately, in the mean time, the boffins’ bid to contact Planet G has borne fruit. Alien craft splash down in the Pacific Ocean and set up an impenetrable force field that splits the naval fleet in two. With the clock ticking down to the time when the ETs can phone home for reinforcements, Alex lands up leading a plucky crew of survivors – including feisty weapons specialist Rihanna – in a desperate fight against a technologically superior foe.
As the ensuing scrap kicks off, Berg and his team ramp up the digital FX and turn the volume dial up to 11 (and that’s just for the ear-bludgeoning rock soundtrack; the explosions are even louder). They’re seemingly determined to pummel viewers into submission with this visual and aural assault, yet the chances are you’ll have a blast. Prepare to cringe at unfeasibly wooden acting and hoot at unspeakably bad dialogue, not all of which is unintentionally funny. By the time a bunch of grizzled navy veterans turn up on deck at the 11th hour to help kick alien ass, the only thing to do is raise the white flag and surrender to the film’s awesome silliness.
Movie Talk star rating:
On general release from Wednesday 11th April.
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