Battleship – a big summer movie that looks a lot like Transformers – opens this week. The USD200 million movie introduces the world to Rihanna The Actress. She plays a no-nonsense weapons expert helping her Navy colleagues (including Taylor Kitsch) take on some vicious aliens that are more of an annihilate-first-ask-questions-if-there’s-anyone-left-afterwards kind of crew.
Moving past the Rihanna factor, Battleship is sort-of inspired by the classic Hasbro board game of nearly the same name that involved a pair of little plastic grids, little plastic battleships and a basic understanding of map co-ordinates. For those struggling to nostalgically recall any Sunday afternoon arguments about who was going to play Battleships as Rihanna and who would be the aliens, you’ll find you come up short – the Hasbro tie in is more of a sly marketing tool.
The aliens are perhaps more of a surprise than Rihanna. Hollywood tends to lack imagination when it comes to extraterrestrial creature design. Since the creative high point of Alien, nasty ETs come equipped with a pretty limited pick ‘n’ mix palette of physical specifications that usually include some combination of reptilian-like features, tentacles, big teeth, horns and soulless eyes. With bodies that just scream malevolence and an unquenchable thirst for universe-wide domination, you have to wonder if these aliens ever achieve domestic bliss when they’re at home looking after the kids. The spousal power struggles must be titanic.
On the other hand the aliens you could take round to meet the parents without fearing annihilation probably have pudgier, unthreatening features like ET himself, or if they need to be a bit sexier they’ll have more in common with Avatar‘s Na’vi – basically slimmed down Native Americans with blue skin. Even the name – Na’vi – trips poetically off the tongue.
Either way, humanoid is the only form going, unless of course you’re making a Men in Black movie, in which case the Very Weird can be a lot funnier. Generally speaking, though, a marauding intergalactic army of giant ostrich-like aliens (y’know, as opposed to humanoid) would probably be pretty baffling for Joe Cinema Goer, no matter how much anger and planet-conquering hate were visible pent up in the aliens’ little black ostrich eyes.
One of these days there may be an upheaval in Movie Land as an apparent alien invasion takes an unexpected diplomatic turn, perhaps on the Battleship sequel. Liam Neeson will receive a telegram from the Pentagon with a message from the advancing alien army to be read aloud to his crew:
“Dear Earthlings: Please excuse the telegram. Our alien technology is apparently not compatible with your primitive Macs and PCs (who’d have thought?) and annoyingly we don’t have telepathic abilities either so some quickie exposition-via-psychic-link isn’t going to happen.
“We no longer wish to fight. We’ve seen the error of our ways and, as an advanced race, we’d like to avoid another brutal mechanised conflict. Plus we’d like to steer clear of one of those embarrassing moments when you pesky humans somehow seem to find a really easy way through our hugely advanced defences. We hear it happens all the time and that really blows.
“So, we’d like to offer a sit-down to discuss the terms of a long-lasting peace. We feel we’re merely misunderstood as a race in light of our black, soulless eyes, very big teeth and general reptilian features that seem to chime with deep-seated human fears regarding physical manifestations of evil.
“We hope to change this unfair perception and create a world where little human children are happy to play in the street with little lizard aliens, with neither being scared for their lives. That is all.
“PS – We would appreciate having both still and sparkling water available at the sit-down. That is really all.”
Liam Neeson and his team consider a future where alien foes aren’t transparently evil and may have complex motivations and issues of their own. Is it possible that they even have the same concerns and fears? Will they be a coward on the battlefield? Would they sacrifice themselves for their friends? Did they leave the gas on in the mother ship? They know that little blue flame in the boiler unit is the pilot light and it’s supposed to be on all the time, but it’s easy to get obsessive.
A staff sergeant slaps Neeson in the face to end his incoherent ramblings. Neeson smiles; it’s a brave new world and they need to stock up on sparkling water.