The moment that finally sold me on 'Battleship' arrived when, out of sheer desperation, an exhausted and completely-spent naval fleet took command of the USS Missouri and set it to sail against an enormous alien ship. I was already thinking the movie was mildly amusing but ultimately forgettable by this point, expecting it to once and for all sink to the bottom of the ocean by the weight of its own CG-action exuberance. The characters, along with the story, were out of options, with nowhere else to go, yet somehow the movie tops itself when we see the decommissioned battleship called back into service, manned by real-life Navy veterans ready to do combat. It's a marvelous, laugh-out-loud sequence that best exemplifies the movie's proper mind-set, done with such ridiculous gusto and fervor that it's almost patriotically awe-inspiring.
I'm fairly convinced director Peter Berg is working on something a bit more sly and conniving than we're lead to expect with this movie. No stranger to lavish, large-scale stage productions which continuously build upon themselves (as seen in 'Hancock'), he isn't taking aim at having the sci-fi actioner be seen as great cinema, or even taken the least bit serious. With a tongue-in-cheek humor always present just beneath a preposterous plot conceived by Erich and Jon Hoeber ('Red'), 'Battleship' never once takes itself so serious that we forget to laugh at the absurdity of it all. It's inspired by a board game for crying out loud, and Berg reminds us of this when ships fire at number coordinates on a screen or the alien artillery resembles the pegs from the game. This is supposed to be a fun time at the movies, and the film delivers what it promised, nothing more and nothing less.
From the very beginning, Berg is working at having his audience smile and simply enjoy the ride, starting with the nerdy scientist (Hamish Linklater) paraphrasing Stephen Hawking as if making the comparison for first time. A little later, he has some fun with Taylor Kitsch's character and his stupidly unlawful quest for a chicken burrito in order to impress Brooklyn Decker. He's not just the stereotypical unwitting hero of every movie we've seen before. Berg makes him into a pathetic, laughable loser we genuinely believe could never amount to anything. But of course, this being the hackneyed escapism it's meant to be, Kitsch's Hopper proves himself at the more dire of moments. He is pushed by the memory of his brother (Alexander Skarsgård). Liam Neeson plays Decker's intimidating father, the Admiral who thinks even less of Hopper and looks as if holding back to the desire to slap the stupid out of him. And Rihanna, in a hopefully ironic casting move because she's terrible, is a weapons specialist assisting along the way.
'Battleship' shamelessly exists in its own excess of mindless entertainment, a wish-fulfilling fantasy of what we have come to expect from the summer blockbuster. Dare I go so far as to suggest this could mark the beginning of something new and grandiose, something which has been slowly brewing for some time but ignored as beneath our snobbish cinematic sensibilities. A possibility that could be traced to the outlandishness of the Jerry Bruckheimer features that started in the 1990s. It's a film type that parodies itself with a kitsch sense of humor shrewdly disguised as the next epic action vehicle but intentionally lacking the blatant self-awareness. Berg deliberately brings to mind nearly every big, action-packed extravaganza of the past twenty years to the table and smashes them together into a gigantic, comprehensible mess — a massive cinematic floater for all to enjoy. This is the art of the movie cliché.
'Battleship' is what Michael Bay's 'Transformers' trilogy should have been without feigning intelligence, inundating the story with too many characters or inflating the movie with too much plot. The sci-fi actioner is kept very simple and never takes itself serious while bringing the thrills and excitement 'Battle: Los Angeles' forgot to include in its similar alien invasion plot. Peter Berg aims for the sort of escapist, stupid delight which makes going to the movies enjoyable. He has, in effect, created a crafty pastiche of the summer blockbuster that embraces and relishes in its own bloated, over-the-top excess and never asks forgiveness being as such. It's like watching one of Roger Corman's overly-ambitious B-films if the legendary filmmaker of schlock only had a similar swollen budget, endless resources and access to the same CG animation team as this movie. If you want brains in your sci-fi, look elsewhere because Berg's 'Battleship' only promises mindless entertainment in its purest form.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Battleship' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Sitting comfortably on opposing panels, the first is a Region Free, BD50 disc while the second is a DVD-9 copy of the movie. At startup, the disc commences with a few skippable trailers before switching to a standard menu selection on the left side of a computerized screen with full-motion clips and music in the background.
'Battleship' blows Blu-ray out of the water with a flawless, demo-worthy 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that consistently surprises from beginning to end. Although a little too trigger happy with the lens flare effect, Tobias A. Schliessler's photography is simply stunning with immaculate, crisp whites everywhere. It's one gorgeous panoramic shot of Hawaii after another while the overall picture maintains brilliantly vivid and comfortably bright. Black levels are inky rich and penetrating with top-notch delineation of background information within the shadows. The entire video has a nice three-dimensional feel to it and comes with an attractive cinematic appeal. Primaries are absolutely sumptuous but accurately saturated, while the softer secondary hues fill the rest of the screen with warmth and a great deal of energy.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the transfer is one of the sharpest and most revealing we've seen in a long while from a live-action movie. The faces of the cast are probably the most shocking, exposing every pore, wrinkle, and superficial blemish. Flesh tones and complexions appear natural and accurate to the tropical climate while also showing superb lifelike textures in everyone. Stitching and threading in the various uniforms are plainly visible as is every distinct line, bolt and piece of equipment aboard the destroyers at the beginning and the battleship at the end. Fine detailing continues in the CGI alien warships where we can clearly make out even the smallest bit of rust-like spots and the tiniest indent on the metallic exterior suggesting a history of battle. The creatures' spacesuits also display terrific definition of scars and minor imperfections. In the end, this is an outstanding high-def debut sure to make fans very happy.
Being the big, garishly ear-splitting and thunderous action extravaganza to usher in the summer movie madness could expect anything less from 'Battleship' other than... well, a "big, garishly ear-splitting and thunderous" soundtrack.
Be warned, this DTS-HD Master Audio track is incredibly loud, especially when the battle commences and things start exploding. The surrounds consistently come alive with extraordinary accuracy and directionality, filling the room with the sounds of objects flying everywhere. Missiles and shells from naval guns fly overhead to their target while the alien peg-like bombs whiz by side speakers and land in the back. Whether it's jet fighters, spaceships, ore aircraft moving from the front to the rears with seamless panning, creating a terrifically-entertaining soundfield that's immersive and engaging. Atmospherics during some of the quieter sequences are not as pronounced as others, but they are still audible in the distance, keeping an active soundscape.
Amid the boisterous mayhem, vocals and conversations remain crystal clear and precise so that we can hear every ridiculous piece of dialogue uttered by the entire cast. The soundstage is expansive with excellent fidelity and warmth, maintaining a sprawling image with plenty of off-screen activity. Dynamics and acoustics are fantastic, lighting up the screen with specific definition and separation in the upper frequencies without feeling too bright. Every ping, thump and clash of metal on metal is perfectly heard with amazingly distinct clarity.
The one and only gripe of the whole design is a low-end that doesn't quite capture the depth and magnitude of what's seen on screen. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of mid-bass to feel the excitement and enjoy the explosive action, providing some fun tactile moments. But given the scale and gravity of these naval battles, bass never digs very deep or generate the sort of wall-rattling, chest-pounding intensity we'd expect from a contemporary sci-fi actioner such as this. Aside from that one negligible grumble, admittedly a trivial personal preference, this lossless mix is a total blast. Shriekingly loud and idiotically bombastic but strikingly detailed and razor-sharp nonetheless, 'Battleship' is an aural delight on Blu-ray.
The following special features are shared with the movie's day-and-date DVD release.
Director Peter Berg directs the flop wannabe-summer-blockbuster based on the classic Hasbro board game and turns it into something surprisingly fun. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and Liam Neeson, 'Battleship' is a bloated, convoluted mishmash that explodes on screen and relishes in the over-the-top excess of CGI absurdity, delivering exactly what it promises as pure popcorn entertainment. The movie splashes onto Blu-ray with a stunning reference quality transfer and a bombastically loud, demo-worthy audio presentation. While a few the supplements are the same as in the DVD release, the majority are high-def exclusives, ensuring that the Blu-ray package is the one fans will want.