Battleship (UK - BD)
Chris takes a belated look at one of the year's biggest and dumbest action films
From director and producer, Peter Berg ( Hancock, Friday Night Lights) comes this ocean bound, thrilling action adventure. The world’s naval forces are called upon to save the planet from an invasion of aliens intent on destruction and the end of mankind. Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights) must rise to the challenge to prevent certain global destruction, with the help of his brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood, Straw Dogs) and allies from around the world. Starring Academy Award® nominee and action movie veteran, Liam Neeson ( Taken, The A-Team) as Admiral Shane, who along with the rest of the fleet are separated by an alien force field. They can only help from the side-lines as five of the navy ships must engage in a David and Goliath battle of strategy, ingenuity and plain old guts to defeat a superior force. (Taken from the PR.)
Okay, let’s get one thing straight: Battleship is dumb. In fact, it’s exceedingly dumb, on the level of something like Michael Bay’s take on the Transformers franchise (and not even the passable first instalment). The plot makes little sense, the motivations of the alien invaders are never explored, it rehashes outdated pop culture references and memes, and Rihanna features in a prominent role. With all of that said, when not being subjected to cringe worthy dialogue and an overabundance of flag waving patriotism, I still enjoyed the film. The effects are extraordinary (no dodgy CGI here folks), the action is fast-paced and inventive, and the sound is a relentless assault on the senses – basically it’s everything you’d want and expect from an action movie.
It’s true that the cast has little to work with in the dialogue stakes - no one actually says ‘You sunk my battleship’, but they do come unnervingly close – but lead Taylor Kitsch is likeable enough in his role and I enjoyed turns from some of the supporting cast, particularly Tadanobu Asano (who is presumably looking to pad out his US résumé). However, once again it’s Liam Neeson who steals the show in an extended cameo as a gruff Admiral with questionable lineage (just what is that accent supposed to be?), chewing everything from the scenery to insubordinate officers’ arses. It’s unfortunate that he’s in danger of becoming parody of himself with these sorts of roles, but he still lends some much needed weight to the proceedings.
Would I recommend Battleship to anyone looking for a film with substance? Clearly not. If, however, you’re in the mood for a good old ‘switch your brain off and watch things go boom’ movie it should be right up your street. That’s assuming you can look past the overwrought dialogue, nonsensical plot and almost nauseating levels of schmaltz, of course.
Battleship arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) that's just about as good as anything else the format has to offer. The palette is bursting with rich, bold colours that are firmly pushed towards the warm end of the spectrum (particularly skin tones), while contrast is strong and unwavering throughout. Detail is also exemplary, in everything from facial and fabric textures, to the stunning shots of the Hawaiian Islands and the intricately rendered CGI. I saw the film theatrically and if memory serves this is a very faithful representation of that digital screening. Normally I'd follow up the positives with a list of weaknesses, but if there is anything to detract from the visual perfection I didn't spot it. There's no artefacting, edge enhancement, aliasing, black crush, blooming or, well, you get the idea. It's definitely one of the best looking discs I've seen in a while and could easily serve as 'demo material' in a large showroom. Say what you like about the film, but only the most cynical of people could criticise the visual quality of this Blu-ray release.
At the cinema Battleship's soundtrack was a monstrous, almost deafening assault on the senses. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track found on this disc loses some of that impact on a smaller sound system, but it is still a raucous affair full of neighbour-bothering set pieces and heavy metal thunder. In fact one could sum up the film's sound design with one phrase: shock and awe. Right from the outset all five channels are alive with ambient effects (although none of them particularly subtle), but it's when our intrepid seamen first encounter the aliens that things really start to come to life. The alien ships splash down in the ocean with such force that you can almost feel the water displacement, all the while coming under fire from mountains of ordnance that explodes with a tremendous accompanying roar from the subwoofer. The rear channels are just as active as the front, with fighter jets, shrapnel, rockets and explosions an almost constant presence. Pans are smooth, directionality is precise and fidelity is excellent, making for a supremely 'immersive' experience. Surprisingly dialogue is very stable in the mix, never really becoming overwhelmed by the other elements in spite of their power, while the various rock tracks all sound suitably macho. In summary, this is a fantastic soundtrack that is every bit as impressive as the visuals.
First up is an ‘Alternate Ending Previsualization (07:33 HD), in which Peter Berg introduces the animatic for what he calls the ‘Butch and Sundance’ ending. The ‘USS Missouri VIP Tour’ (20:10 HD) grants us a look at the inner workings of the ship featured in the movie. The presents a look at the ship’s history, from its construction and deployment in World War II right through to the present day, as well as a its impressive armaments. ‘Preparing for Battle’ (11:09 HD) offers us a retrospective look at the Battleship board game, and how elements of the game were incorporated into the script. ‘All Hands on Deck: The Cast’ (11:40 HD) is, as you’d expect, a featurette devoted to the actors. We hear from most of the principal cast, along with director Peter Berg as he sings their praises. Next we have ‘Engage in Battle’ (06:58 HD), which is divided into two featurettes: ‘Shooting at Sea’ and ‘All Aboard the Fleet’. Together they examine the difficulties of shooting a movie at sea and aboard real naval vessels. ‘Commander Pete’ (05:46 HD) is a short featurette devoted to Peter Berg’s directorial style, with plenty of comments from the cast and crew. ‘The Visual Effects of Battleship’ (11:30 HD) focusses on the creation of the outstanding computer generated imagery, as provided by the wizards at ILM. We’re given a look at the entirely new process developed to render the complex water effects, along with the design of the aliens’ intricate battle armour. Finally we have ‘Battleship: The Video Game Trailer’ (00:53 HD), which is exactly what it says. We miss out on the BonusView features of the US disc, which is rather annoying.
Yes the plot is a load of old pony, but every now and then I actually welcome a break from complex narratives. Disengaging one's brain and interacting with a movie purely on a visceral level can be quite liberating, and when it comes to spectacle Battleship delivers in spades. Technically the disc is pretty much flawless in the AV department, and while it's lacking some of the extras found on the US release the bonus material is interesting enough. Of course this probably won't convince you to buy the disc if you've already set your mind against it, but it could still be worth a rental if only to give your home cinema a workout.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 20th August 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Catalan, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 German, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Japanese, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, Danish, English, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish
Extras: Alternate Ending, Featurettes, Alternate Ending, Video Game Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Tadanobu Asano, Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 131 minutes
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