A film based on a board game is inherently a stupid idea and so is this film. Noisy as your grandmother's vacuum cleaner and filled with images hurled at you at breakneck speeds, the film initially looks like sub Michael Bay garbage. For the first half hour I was convinced that this had the potential to be a worse film than any made by Bay. What I failed to realize is that director Peter Berg is no Michael Bay, and by that I mean Berg still has some respect for the storytelling side of the filmmaking craft. Slowly, I found myself getting immersed in this world and when the battleships took precedence it finally dawned on me that Peter Berg may have made the best boardgame to film adaptation ever, not counting Clue. .
In Battleship, the focus remains on the stars of the game, the battleships themselves, as well as the ships’ beauty in movement and the excitement of action on the high seas. Logic goes out the window, aliens are thrown into the story as the enemy (because why not?), Japanese and American (and Barbadian if you count Rihanna) soldiers work together, some kind of romance subplot is carried out half-heartedly, Liam Neeson stops by for a free lunch and what amounts to a cameo, and the screen explodes in wartime fireworks. It's completely stupid and, at the same time, stupidly fun.
The plot revolves around the Hopper brothers, Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and Stone (Alexander Skarsgård). Alex is the wild and crazy one, while Stone is the responsible rock steady one who is always trying to get his brother to do something with his life (like join the Navy or something and fight aliens with awesome battleships). But, as a Naval officer Alex is pretty much the same guy. He is bad at following orders and of course has to fall in love with the daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of his Admiral (Liam Neeson). Things come to a head on the day of a training mission in Hawaii, where apersonal problem--asking dad for permission to get married--has to be put on hold because alien spacecraft have shown up (clearly not just to make contact). What we have here is not a failure to communicate but rather the second sneak attack in Peal Harbor history.
Certainly, massively low expectations have something to do with how I reacted to the film. However, it exudes a real enthusiasm that is hard to find in these lumbering spectacles. Battleship just wants to be mindless fun. The acting is surprisingly competent, with star Taylor Kitsch quite confident in the lead and, even more surprisingly, there is really little in the way of groaningly bad dialogue. Believe it or not, no one ever says the game's signature line. So, lets say it here, all together and with enthusiasm, “You sunk my Battleship!"
This movie may not end up on anyone's "ten best" list, but it will probably be played on a loop at HDTV showrooms around the world since its image and sound are stunning. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and there are scenes in this film, full of sea and sun, that guide your eyes way into the deep backgrounds where everything is sharp and clear and clean.
Universal really gave this film the full treatment with a huge inventory of extra features on the Blu-ray disc. These include an "Alternate Ending Pre-Visualization," which will do little more than convince viewers the ending chosen was correct.
"The Visual Effects of Battleship" show how far effects artists have come in creating water digitally. The scenes at sea in the film are completely convincing on a photo-realistic level. What I can never understand is, after all of the work is put into creating the reality, why the effects artists cannot resist creating impossible camera movements. These fly in and out of areas that no camera operator or even camera could enter and shatter that reality in seconds.
"USS Missouri VIP Tour" is exactly what it sounds like--an informative look at "Mighty Mo" from bow to stern. Next, "Preparing for Battle" covers the pre-production stage, focusing on the challenges of adapting the game into a movie. "All Hands On Deck: The Cast" is more of your standard behind-the-scenes piece that is full of the cast saying how fun it was to work together.
"Engage in Battle" is split into two smaller pieces, "Shooting at Sea" which shows how cautious Peter Berg was of shooting much of the film on actual water. Obviously, he heard the horror stories about Spielberg an Jaws as well as Kevin Costner and Waterworld. "All Aboard the Fleet" gives us a glimpse of shooting on a floating production barge.
"Commander Pete" is, of course, a segment where people say funny or nice things about Peter Berg. This makes me wonder about that story of him slapping Jennifer Garner during the making of The Kingdom. Hearsay says this almost led to a director to director throwdown when Garner's husband, Ben Affleck, showed up on set to confront Berg.
It's no surprise "All Access with Peter Berg" doesn't go into that incident at all. Instead, this feature is the newfangled way of featuring the director's commentary on selected scenes throughout the disc. Scenes are suddenly interrupted by Berg, who is in some kind of Minority Report world in the bonus features, making graphics and images appear in front of him with his hands and tossing them away, etc.
All in all, Battleship is a pretty impressive Blu-ray release, which also comes with a standard DVD and a downloadable digital copy, as well as Ultraviolet access. You can watch the film anywhere, even at sea.
Reviewed By: Brian Holcomb
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