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A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.
For more about Battleship and the Battleship Blu-ray release, see the Battleship Blu-ray Review
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater
Director: Peter Berg
» See full cast & crew
Battleship Blu-ray Review
Rhianna sunk my battleship!
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 11, 2012
No, it wasn't just Rhianna, even though she was, without a doubt, the worst of it. No, I didn't expect much more than a big, dumb heap of Big Dumb Fun. And no, I'm not opposed to a mindless, popcorn-fueled blockbuster any more than I'm opposed to kicking back, switching my brain to standby and going on a wild, bumpy summer ride. But director Peter Berg's Battleship requires a complete reboot of the brain, relying on the same, silly tentpole conventions, leaps in logic and lazy storytelling that drive many a Humans vs. CG Armada actioner propagated by Michael Bay and his disciples. I'll admit, for an alien invasion flick based on a classic Milton Bradley board game of the same name, Battleship is surprisingly serviceable at times. Even entertaining on occasion. But it's Transformers minus the nostalgia and, well, the Transformers. It's a direct to video movie with decent actors and terrific FX. It's a rainy Sunday Redbox rental and... yep, that's about it.
Ah, the folly of firing a transmission at a distant planet with Earth-like characteristics. Silly NASA. That's right, Battleship is yet another alien invasion movie that assumes 1) a highly intelligent alien race would travel countless lightyears and expend considerable resources to wage war on mankind just 'cause 2) their superior technology and military might could still somehow be thwarted by little old us (apparently thanks to the Laws of Death Star Exhaust Port Mechanics) and 3) their defeat would bring an end to all future conflict since, you know, when an initial incursion fails, an enemy force never, ever sends out a search party or tries again. They certainly don't head for the predetermined destination with bigger, badder reinforcements. But that's Battleship in a nutshell. Aliens invade, Earth needs saving, and it's up to our hopelessly outgunned, inevitably flawed hero and his motley crew to identify and target the invading ships' flashing orange weak spot.
The aliens, in this case, are actually a small but aggressive recon unit, hellbent on calling in the cavalry after their communications ship is destroyed by colliding with a satellite. The saving comes in the form of the only three ships trapped inside of the enormous energy shield the aliens generate to prevent the armies of the world from stopping them. And the flawed hero of the hour is Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, Wolverine: X-Men Origins), an undisciplined U.S. Navy lieutenant who has to step up, learn a lesson or two, and prove his worth as a man, an officer, and a human being. Needless to say, Alex has his work cut out for him, especially when he has to prove said worth to his brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård, True Blood), his girlfriend, Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), and her father, Admiral Terrance Shane (Liam Neeson, Taken), the man in charge of the entire Pacific Fleet. Whew. What's a poor, lifelong underachiever to do?
I know what you're thinking, or at least what I was thinking at the time. If a ship can travel through space at such high velocities, how does a collision with something as small and fragile as a man-made satellite lead to its destruction? How did an undisciplined troublemaker become a lieutenant on a heavily armed destroyer in the first place? Or even find himself in a position where he assumes command of an entire ship as one of the most senior officers facing the alien horde? But just wait; that's not all. So slap on your spoiler goggles and proceed with caution; there are enough gaping plot holes (or lapses in internal logic) in Battleship to literally sink a battleship. When the aliens arrive, they attack only what attacks them, sparing a warship when its commanding officer decides to call off his attack and live to fight another day. But that pesky highway overpass on the mainland? That's a threat that needs eliminated immediately! Boom, boom, boom. Warship? Eh, it's turning around. Save a few rounds of our nearly infinite ammo. Highway? There's a highway!? Someone might use it to mount a counter strategy! Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!
Not long after that initially inexplicable bit of Hopper-sparing mercy (or perhaps galactic hubris or just plain ol' intel gathering) we learn that the aliens have a crippling aversion to sunlight; aliens who hail from a planet NASA contacted specifically because of its striking similarities to Earth, among those similarities its sun and its relationship to and distance from that sun. But Ken, you say, the aliens have eyes just like that random crewman's lizard! The light burns! And that's valid I suppose, if it didn't raise other questions, like how did creatures that couldn't see in sunlight became the dominant species on their planet in the first place? Which, even if answered, raises even more questions as to why an advanced civilization who overcame an aversion to their chief light source would want or need to take over a sunny planet much like their own. Berg seems to pat us on the head, shush us, and whisper they like to blow stuff up. Just go with it. There's more, of course. So. Much. More. How many times do the aliens need to attack Hopper's boat (from sea, by air, or on foot) before they figure out Hopper and his crew pose a dramatically larger threat than the ship that merely fired a warning shot across their bow? On that note, how often do... hm. Best to stop there. I could go on -- and believe me it's tempting -- but there are too many gaps and chasms to list, most of which hinge on an analysis of a movie that wasn't meant to be analyzed, casually or carefully.
If it isn't a plot hole, it's often a transparent plot contrivance. The E.T.'s have a seemingly endless supply of aerial buzzsaw contraptions (don't get me started on why the aliens didn't just launch three of those bad boys and take out the entire U.S. Navy) but their lead ships are -- what else? -- naval cruisers that "hop" across the water; cruisers that were designed to function at sea rather than on land, wipe out an opposing naval force (which they don't do), and attack anything that moves with a barrage of powerful missile-barrels (which are pretty cool, I gotta say, especially once you realize they look like pegs from the original board game). And how many of these lead ships do they have? Three. And how many destroyers are trapped within the energy shield? Three. And what happens at night, when radars on both sides fail and the ships, human and alien, are blind in the water? A rousing game of Milton Bradley's Battleship, that's what; a game in which Hopper's destroyer has to use a grid of target areas to locate enemies they can't see. Far more blood, sweat and tears seems to have gone into finding a clever way to cram a game of Battleship into the proceedings (even though what transpires isn't how the game actually plays) than a cohesive narrative, convincing characters, awe-inspiring naval strategy, or dialogue that doesn't induce fits of laughter in a bemused audience.
The highest compliment I can pay the film is that it's exactly what you would expect from its theatrical trailers. 'Splosions, ship battles, 'splosions, crazy alien weapons, 'splosions, human vs. mech carnage, 'splosions, shootouts and shoot-em-ups, 'splosions, jaw-dropping CG titan-clashes, 'splosions... you get the idea. When Berg focuses on the action, Battleship is an absolute, honest-to-goodness blast of 2,700 lb armor-piercing proportions. It's still dumb, but it's fun, and that fun almost carries his tattered, wartorn ship to shore. Action can only carry an actioner so far, though. Kitsch and Skarsgård turn in a pair of solid performances (if you're able to ignore most of the dialogue they're forced to deliver, that is), and Neeson adds just enough world-weary gravitas in his handful of scenes to make it all seem like a weightier blockbuster than it is. Decker, though, is shoehorned into a pointless and utterly predictable bit of land-warring laced with enough timely feel-good schmaltz to make every cutaway to the mainland a painful one (noble as real-life colonel and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson's subplot may be); Alex's crew is made up of steely tough guys and bumbling comic relief, none of whom are memorable in the slightest; his primary rival and soon-to-be-friend, a Japanese captain named Nagata (Tadanobu Asano, Thor), is robbed of his own development to further Alex's paint-by-numbers ascent to responsible manhood; and Rhianna's film debut... well, take a minute or two, read this article, and soak up every line of dialogue she utters.
Still, my seven-year-old son was left screaming: "this... is... awesome!" So there's that. At the end of the day (or rainy Sunday as it were), Battleship promises thrills and exciting CG-on-CG action and delivers on that front. If you're able to overlook its many, many shortcomings, cobbled together screenplay, and unchecked Michael Bay aspirations, you might enjoy yourself. If you can focus on the action, you might even have a good time. If you can't keep your brain from rebooting every time something trips your logic alarm, though; if you can't get past the awful dialogue, comicbook performances, and manufactured drama; if you can't stomach action for action's sake, it might be best to pass on this one. Battleship isn't terrible, but it isn't far off at times. At most, it's one of the best board-game-to-film adaptations of all time. Which isn't saying much since it's one of the only board-game-to-film adaptations. Take a shot if you dare. Steer clear if you spot bigger and better targets on the Redbox horizon.
Battleship Blu-ray, Video Quality
Battleship shoves out to sea with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer in tow; one that's as flawless and eye-popping as they come. Colors are bold and beautiful (even if fleshtones are, by design, a touch warm), bright seaworthy blues and menacing alien reds light up the screen, black levels are deep and inky, and contrast is strong and consistent throughout. And if that doesn't distract you from the film's lesser qualities, just wait till you get a load of the detail on this bad boy. Edges are crisp and clean (without an ounce or inch of ringing), textures are remarkably refined, an unobtrusive veneer of grain is present and accounted for at all times, delineation is revealing (be it in the lower decks of a U.S. destroyer or in the bowels of a sunless alien ship), and every last hair, pore, scratch, scrape, fleck of rust and shard of white-hot shrapnel is preserved to perfection. For once, a high definition presentation doesn't make weak CG stand out; one, because there isn't any weak CG to speak of, and two, the seams have been so masterfully merged, regardless of the FX invading any given sequence. Through it all, the explosive and the serene, I didn't detect a single instance of artifacting, crush, aliasing or, really, any other notable anomaly. I caught the slightest hint of exceedingly negligible banding in three shots, but it was gone before I had fully registered what I was seeing. Simply put, Battleship looks fantastic. Even if you hate the movie, you'll be hard pressed to find anything wrong with its high definition presentation...
Battleship Blu-ray, Audio Quality
...or its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track for that matter. Battleship's shock and awe continues with the full might and fury of a ground-shaking, wall-pounding, neighbor-waking lossless mix that doesn't let up for a second. Dialogue somehow maintains its composure, in part due to smart prioritization, in part due to crystal clear clarity, and in part due to knowing when to shut up and let hellfire reign down on the enemy forces. LFE output is angry and aggressive, with devastating explosions, hull-breaching surges of water, and steel-rending eruptions. When an alien ship splashes down, it splashes down. When a destroyer unloads, it unloads. When a vessel is torn in two, it comes apart with startling ferocity. The rear speakers are, quite possibly, even more aggressive. Fighter jets and alien ships rocket across the soundfield, missiles and alien armaments hurtle past, waves rise and fall all around, buildings crumble, cities panic, winds blow... it's a 360 degree experience as immerssive as it is involving. It only helps that pans are silky smooth, directionality is blessed with deadly aim, and dynamics are nothing short of invigorating. In short, Battleship's AV presentation is one of the best of the year thus far.
Battleship Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Battleship Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It wasn't a bad week at the box office, it wasn't poor word of mouth, it wasn't anything other than the obvious: Battleship sinks itself. Seemingly doomed from the start, it doesn't separate itself from the genre pack and, worse, doesn't even give Michael Bay a run for his money, no matter how amazing some of ILM's ship-vs-ship visual effects may be. Ah well. With $300 million at the international box office, this probably isn't the last we'll see of Alex Hopper and those feisty, water-hopping extraterrestrials, so hopefully Berg and company get it right next time. (Leaving Rhianna off the call sheet would be a great start.) Hit or miss as it is, though -- puns! -- Universal's BD release doesn't disappoint. With an impeccable video presentation, an explosive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a generous supplemental package, Battleship's high definition debut will give its fans their money's worth. I'd recommend going with a rental (unless you unremittingly love anything that can be classified as Big Dumb Fun), but if you already enjoyed Berg's high seas battler, you certainly won't be disappointed with its Blu-ray release.
Battleship: Other Editions
Battleship Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, September 3-9: Battleship and Hunger Games Continu... - September 13, 2012
The week ending on September 9th documented the latest round of sales competitions between Battleship and The Hunger Games on the home media market charts. On the Blu-ray-only listings, Battleship scored its second week of top sales and a 51% Blu-ray market share; ...
• Blu-ray Sales, August 27-September 2: Battleship Defeats The Hung... - September 6, 2012
After three profitable weeks, the smash hit The Hunger Games finally fell from the number one spot on the Blu-ray and overall package media charts, and taking its place was Universal Studios' sci-fi blockbuster Battleship, director Peter Berg's adaptation of the ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Battleship - August 24, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Universal Studios Home Entertainment are offering five members an opportunity to win a copy of director Peter Berg's Battleship, starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Rhianna and Liam Neeson. The high seas alien invasion ...
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