Taylor Kitsch frowns cutely as troubled maverick US Navy hunk Alex Hopper, who gets into a sea of trouble even before he sets sail to save the world, all because he fancies a girl called Samantha (‘actress’ and former model Brooklyn Decker). This gets him trouble with the cops, his brother (Alexander Skarsgård) and his big boss, Admiral Shane (Liam Nesson), who, unfortunately, is the girl’s grumpy old dad.

The arrogant and slack (though always amiable) Alex is late aboard for his mission on a naval war games exercise. The Admiral says it’s gonna be his last. But of course we know better.

After a lot of screen time, this amusingly soapy story gives way to the real yarn. It just happens that Alex’s battleship is part of an international fleet that’s soon confronted by an armada of evil alien invaders. With Japan and the US rather surprisingly batting on the same side together in Hawaii, the Earthlings fight back for all they’re worth, and quite a lot more, chucking in all the hardware from the world’s hardware toy cupboard, in an apparently endless, unstoppable sequence of gung-ho action that’s certainly a gob-smackingly amazing CGI achievement.

It’s perhaps no bad thing that the film’s main recommendation is that the incredibly costly mayhem and special effects (at $200million) are truly impressive and spectacular – and thrilling.

Unfortunately based on the classic Hasbro naval combat game, Battleship is not a great work of art but it proves good action entertainment. Because of the movie’s toy basis, the aliens turn out to be annoyingly boring and far too humanoid to thrill and the weaponry on both sides seems much too old-fashioned and low-tech for such a high-tech movie. You’d think these aliens and these Yanks would just have better stuff to chuck at each other.

Never tense or exciting enough, the movie’s truly corny, but it is still quite a lot of daft fun throughout, with a hilarious finale that throws in a surprise scenario that had the cinema audience around me in hysterics and got me laughing all the way home. No spoiler from me, OK? Let’s keep the climax as a surprise, then.

Eye candy Kitsch is starting to enjoy a big career with John Carter, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Covenant. Though slightly too old, he looks the part and convinces in the daft action, even if he’s a bit slack in the acting department. But then this dialogue would defeat most any actor, even one as first rate as Liam Neeson, who seems a bit at sea here, taking it far too seriously and low key when a lot of lip smacking and metaphorical moustache twitching would be right. In a role in which Michelle Rodriguez would be perfect, pop star Rihanna doesn’t really justify her presence here, but again that’s not her fault: it’s a casting problem. Brooklyn Decker just brings her long-limbed good looks to the table when an actress expert in feisty banter is needed.

Defeating the actors, this is a blazing headbanger of a popcorn movie. Not trusting the tried-and-tested alien invasion scenario enough, they daren’t risk stopping the ear-splitting bangs and even louder music once battle commences. This cramps the characters and the story. It would like to be Independence Day, but doesn’t have the wit or class. Yet the two hours of escapist entertainment passes in a short few minutes, in the way of the kind of vintage Hollywood stuff it seeks to emulate. If you keep brain in neutral, it’s a hoot and a half.

Verdict: fun if you go with the flow 3/5

Copyright (c) Derek Winnert