Battleship Blu-Ray Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 09.02.2012
Regardless of what you think about the movie, this is one hell of a Blu-ray release.
*Taylor Kitsch as Lieutenant Alex Hopper
*Alexander Skarsgard as Commander Stone Hopper
*Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora "Weps" Raikes
*Brooklyn Decker as Sam
*Tadanobu Asano as Captain Yugi Nagata
*Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane
*Jon Tui as Chief Petty Officer Walter "The Beast" Lynch
Story: A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.
Trivia: The battleship Missouri was the key plot of the movie Under Siege, where it was about to be decommissioned. In Battleship, this boat is set as a museum.
When Battleship was announced, it's possible that there wasn't a single person that didn't scoff at the idea. Hollywood's made some silly movie decisions before, but making a film based on a board game? How would that work? Then the trailer was released and it became apparent that instead of a normal navy film, this would be one about aliens. The very concept alone is laughable and pretty much made any film adaptation doomed from the start. So it's no surprise that Battleship is not a very good movie. It's big, loud and dumb, but is it enjoyable?
The movie focuses on Alex Hopper (Kitsch), a young man who is going nowhere and is constantly berated by his brother Stone (Skarsgard) to make something of himself. After one incredibly unfunny sequence involving his attempts to impress a girl named Sam (Decker), Stone tells Alex he is going to join the Navy. From there we pick up in present day where Alex is still a screw-up, but he's a screw-up in a naval uniform. Of course, as these movies often do, it becomes up to him to lead a crew to save the day when aliens invade Earth.
The biggest problem with Battleship is that it takes itself way too seriously. With all of the things working against it, it could have easily turned it around by going very tongue-in-cheek and letting the audience know the filmmakers are in on the joke. There are moments in this film that should be played up and allow the audience to laugh, but it's not played that way. The alien's weapons look like pegs from the game. The game Battleship is actually played at one point by the main cast. The most laughable moment comes when the heroes decide to use an old ship that was decommissioned and turned into a museum and bring along some World War II veterans for the ride. These should not be serious moments, because as such, they are unintentionally funny at moments when the movie insists the audience take it seriously.
Instead, after 40 minutes of forced humor and one-liners that fall flat, the aliens arrive and the tone shifts completely. Now the audience is expected to be invested in the fate of the world and the fate of these people who if they care about them, it's solely due to the charisma of the cast and not due to the script. This is a poorly-written film that feels exactly like what it is: a hastily-written cash-in of a name value property meant to sell tickets during the summer. Every single character is stock, with no extra dimensions or weight to them. Even the hero, the character the audience is supposed to root for, is incredibly cliched and no different from any other action hero in any other summer blockbuster. A smart script would have played with this, but Battleship would rather keep it simple and stupid.
As mentioned, the cast does have some charisma. Taylor Kitsch is not a bad actor and plays his part well, but it's going to be a miracle if he is still chosen for big roles after this past year, with Battleship and John Carter both bombing. Kitsch would be well-suited to fire his agent in the future, if he hasn't already. The biggest X factor for this film is the debut of Rihanna. Truth be told, she's not bad either. She doesn't have a chance to be. Her character is "sassy black woman #1242" and that's all she has to do. In a way, it's smart, because it doesn't allow her to attempt to act and bring things down. At the same time, her character is just there to make a quip look tough, and the audience again lacks a reason to care if one of the aliens comes after her.
The cast also includes some veterans with Liam Neeson and Peter MacNicol, but doesn't use them to their fullest capability. Liam Neeson especially feels like his part could have been played by anyone. He's likely the biggest star in this film and a good 3/4 of it takes place without him in it. It's very likely all of his scenes were shot in a single day. The rest of the cast is interchangeable from the rest, even Skarsgard, who seems to be having some trouble in mainstream Hollywood with this and Straw Dogs. Perhaps sticking with TV and indie films (like Melancholia) is the way to go.
If there is one redeeming factor in this film, it is the impressive special effects by ILM and the well-done action sequences. Compare this film to something like Michael Bay's Transformers, where the action is loud and blurred and it's hard to make out what's going on. Here, the aliens have a clear design, their vehicles and weapons have a specific design (however silly they may be) and there seems to be a purpose. The naval battle sequences are incredible to look at and in a better movie would have definitely enhanced the product. Unfortunately for Battleship, they are the only reason to see it.
Battleship was doomed from the start. It's easy to say that with a better script or better-defined characters this could have been something, but the tone is completely wrong and at the end of the day, it's a movie based on a board game. It's nice to look at, but it's no different than any other blockbuster of its kind and takes itself too seriously to be any fun.
Any current Blu-ray is going to look and sound good, but Battleship was carefully put together with, as the box will tell you, "perfect high-def sound". The soundtrack is crisp and clear (and, as a side note, contained really good songs) and the special effects can be heard booming but not so much to drown out the dialogue or music. It's a great mix and will really sound good on a surround sound system or a better than average HDTV. The film is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround with options for English 2.0, and French DTS Surround 5.1, English Dolby 2.0 and English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1.
Impressive visual effects require a great video presentation to really show them off, and this Blu-ray gives you a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer to do just that. It looks absolutely amazing, and it's not just the effects. The cinematography and shots of the sea look beautiful with this transfer. Everything just looks fantastic. If only all movies could look as good as Battleship does with this transfer.
All Access With Director Peter Berg (140 mins): If you liked the movie enough, you can watch it again with Peter Berg presenting extra features. This is more like the Warner Bros "Maximum Movie Mode". It doesn't seem to run as frequently as other features like this, but it does give you plenty of behind-the-scenes clips and interview segments with Berg. Even if you aren't a fan of the movie, these usually never disappoint.
Alternate Ending Previsualization (8 mins): Peter Berg calls this his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ending. It involves several ships going out in a blaze of glory in order to make way for the Missouri's chance to save the day. It's rendered in CGi and looks like something out of an older video game, but it gets the job done. Other films may have relied on storyboards, so you have to hand it to the creators of the blu-ray for going the extra mile.
USS Missouri VIP Tour (20 mins): Peter Berg, Michael Carr (President of the USS Missouri Memorial Association) and Reginald H. Johnson (Senior Tour Guide) go on a tour of the USS Missouri, which is a real ship and a real museum. You get to see the vessel's history and look at areas on the ship that you wouldn't get to see if you took a standard tour. History buffs and navy aficionados should really enjoy this feature.
Preparing For Battle (11 mins): The filmmakers and cast talk about how the game is integrated in the film and how hard it was to adapt something with no story into a film. Your standard behind-the-scenes feature.
All Hands on Deck: The Cast (12 mins): Peter Berg discusses each of his casting choices and proceeds to praise every member of his cast. Probably the worst feature on the set as it's nothing but a fluff piece.
Engage in Battle (7 mins): These features focus on the sequences that were filmed at sea and look at the battles and the ships.
Commander Pete (6 mins): A short feature about Peter Berg and his style of directing.
The Visual Effects (12 mins): This is the one I was most interested in, but it runs as long as the generic piece. Something as great as the special effects of this film deserved more time as that is the reason anyone should want to see this.
You also get previews, the Second Screen Experience for your tablet or PC, My Scenes Bookmarking and the DVD/Digital Copy. Overall, fans will be pleased as there is a lot here for them to take in. Those who aren't impressed with the film probably won't bother but the tour of the USS Missouri is a good watch.
Special Features: 7.0
The 411: Battleship is great to look at thanks to ILM, but it suffers from stock characters, a clunky script and a tone that does not suit it. While the movie leaves a lot to be desired, you can't argue with a Blu-ray that is presented as well as this one is. The audio and video are amazing and the special features include material for fans and non-fans alike. If this were a recommendation for the film itself, it would be an obvious skip. For those who aren't fans of the movie, adjust the score to a 3 or 4 to reflect that. If you're a fan, this is a solid recommendation.