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Battleship: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet Review

Battleship (2012) movie poster Battleship

Theatrical Release: May 18, 2012 / Running Time: 131 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Peter Berg / Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber / Songs List

Cast: Taylor Kitsch (Lieutenant Alex Hopper), Alexander Skarsgård (Commander Stone Hopper), Rihanna (Petty Officer Cora "Weps" Raikes), Brooklyn Decker (Sam Shane), Tadanobu Asano (Captain Yugi Nagata), Hamish Linklater (Cal Zapata), Liam Neeson (Admiral Shane), Peter MacNicol (Secretary of Defense), John Tui (Chief Petty Officer Walter "The Beast" Lynch), Jesse Plemons (Boatswain Mate Seaman Jimmy "Ordy" Ord), Gregory D. Gadson (Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales), Jerry Ferrara (Sampson Jood Strodell), Adam Godley (Dr. Nogrady), Rico McClinton (Captain Browley), Joji Yoshida (Chief Engineer Hiroki), Louis Lombardi (Bartender)

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Some are more interested than others, but few are strongly opposed to an alien invasion movie. Likewise, naval warfare action is a genre with certain appeal. Then there is the feature film adapted from a board game,
a ridiculous concept but one that could potentially be embraced. The problem is when a film is all three of these things and carries the title Battleship, people will snicker. Universal Pictures and Hasbro found that out the hard way this year, when their $209 million movie clearly intended to be a four-quadrant summer blockbuster struggled to gross $65 M in North America.

The performance drew comparisons to other epic box office flops, from 2008's Speed Racer to Disney's John Carter from two months earlier. The year has not been kind to Taylor Kitsch, the "Friday Night Lights" star who got leading man status in three major motion pictures this year, a feat he seems unlikely to repeat given the costly losses on John Carter and Battleship. (The third, Oliver Stone's Savages, grossed its more moderate budget but still has a ways to go until profitability.)

Battleship casts Kitsch as Alex Hopper, a down and out 26-year-old so determined to get a chicken burrito for a pretty girl (swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker) that he breaks into a closed convenience store and steals it. The ensuing arrest causes Alex's older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) to insist he join him in the United States Navy. We jump to a random and completely inessential sequence that finds Alex missing the potentially game-tying penalty shot in the RIMPAC Cup championship soccer game against Japan.

It takes alien invasion to unite sworn soccer enemies Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano). Brooklyn Decker adds an action film to her quickly-growing filmography in the role of girlfriend/admiral's daughter Sam Shane.

Next thing we know, Alex is a Lieutenant but one who is about to be kicked out of the Navy for his bull-headed antics. All of a sudden, every U.S. government agency is put on alert after five spacecrafts of alien origin are spotted fastly approaching military bases in Hawaii. Expecting a discharge just moments earlier, Alex now finds himself the unlikely highest-ranking officer aboard the U.S.S. John Paul Jones, a destroyer whose location off the coast puts it right in the middle of the action.

With communications knocked out, Alex is the one calling the shots and having to make bold decisions in the face of an immensely destructive, heavily armored, technologically superior alien race which hones in on Earthlings' power sources and weaponry. Meanwhile, on the islands, Alex's girlfriend and would-be fiancée Sam (Decker) teams with a double amputee retired Army veteran (Gregory D. Gadson) and a technical expert (Hamish Linklater) to do anything they can to help out.

Battleship bears almost no resemblance to the board game on which it is supposedly based. That can hardly come as a surprise to anyone who's played the two-player game that consists of guessing coordinates in an effort to sink your opponent's secretly-arranged fleet. Milton Bradley first published it in pencil and paper form as Broadsides in 1943, with the board game following in 1967. Since then, there have been electronic talking versions and video games, but not a single incarnation has ever involved extraterrestrials.

Pop star Rihanna makes her acting debut in the role of tough gunner Cora "Weps" Raikes. The armor of the alien visitors prevents us from getting a real good look at the seemingly peaceful race.

Obviously, this film arrives in the mold of earlier Hasbro adaptation Transformers. Based on the nearly $3 billion earned from that franchise, it was not a bad idea. But whereas Transformers made some use of existing mythos and characters, Battleship was starting from scratch, with nothing more than a familiar title and the notion of ships firing shots at one another to go on.

Casting cripples this production. Kitsch lacks the charisma of a traditional hero and the charm of a more comedic one. Making her acting debut, Grammy-winning singer Rihanna is even less convincing as a petty officer gunner than Brooklyn Decker is as a physical therapist. Skarsgård demonstrates he has inherited his father's unpredictable project selection but not the commercial payoffs that Stellan has enjoyed.
Meanwhile, Liam Neeson is reduced to the periphery as Admiral Shane, the father of Decker's character, a limited role that allows the Irish actor to save face, a privilege not extended by some of his other bad high-profile recent films.

In spite of its generic design, tackily assembled cast, and plainly commercial ambitions, Battleship is at least watchable and coherent, which is more than can be said for some of its ilk, i.e. Transformers. Director Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) is not the hack and egomaniac that Michael Bay has repeatedly proven himself to be. Berg and sibling screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeder (Red) don't allow this film to exist merely as a showcase of grandiose visual effects and frantically-edited combat action. It's not that Battleship is far more sophisticated than that, it just has the decency to retain interest in its human characters and give them more to do than simply being surrounded by metal and explosions.

Wasting no time, Universal released Battleship today as a single-disc DVD and as the two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet combo pack reviewed here.

Battleship: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray and DVD Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (French, Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Both: Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Classless or not, Battleship looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. The busy visuals pose no challenges for the 2.40:1 widescreen picture. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is as active and immersive as you'd expect and hope, placing you in the middle of out-of-this-world situations regularly with sharp directionality and plenty of impact.

Director Peter Berg pauses his movie to talk alien design in "All Access" viewing mode. Navy veterans give us a VIP tour of the real U.S.S. Missouri, America's last battleship.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The all-HD slate of extras begins with an alternate ending previsualization (7:33). Director Peter Berg introduces this animatic, which, less abrupt than the film's actual ending, features no dialogue, but bombastic score and sound effects.

"All Access with Director Peter Berg" (2:19:31) "enhances" playback of the film with sporadic picture-in-picture videos. Few, far between, and a lot quieter than the film's soundtrack, they give us raw footage from filming, rehearsals, on-set playfulness, and behind-the-scenes shorts. We also get some full-sized reflection from the director. There's got to be a better way to get this content than watching the whole movie again for the occasional pop-up. Unless you just saw the movie in theaters and want to see it in a new way, this feels like a waste of time.

A "U.S.S. Missouri VIP Tour" (20:10) takes us around the "Mighty Mo", the climatically featuring battleship that is stationed as a museum ship at Pearl Harbor. Curators and veterans share information with Peter Berg and us.

Alexander Skarsgård gives and receives praise in "All Hands on Deck: The Cast." Two Engage in Battle shorts take us behind-the-scenes of ship and water filming.

"Preparing for Battle" (11:09) is the set's only mention of the board game, with cast and crew sharing their experiences and the film being discussed in relation to its source material. From that, this moves into standard making-of territory, sharing some of the endless footage no doubt captured during production.

"All Hands on Deck: The Cast" (11:40) pours praise onto each of the leading actors, who speak highly of their cast mates, their advisors, and the real-life veterans who join in the fun. The piece benefits from a lot of candid production footage.

"Engage in Battle" (6:58) consists of two shorts: "Shooting at Sea" and "All Aboard the Fleet." Both of them touch upon the thrills and challenges of such unusual filming locations.

"Commander Pete" (5:46) focuses on Peter Berg's direction, with comments from cast and crew as well as many looks at him at work and play (his nutritional proselytizing falls somewhere in between).

ILM digital model supervisor Frank Gravatt points something out regarding the aliens' design in "The Visual Effects of 'Battleship.'" Gridded aquatic action features on the DVD main menu montage.

"The Visual Effects of Battleship" (11:30) lives up to its title, dissecting and celebrating Industrial Light & Magic's work on the film.

The design of the aliens, their ships, and the armor are all given some thought here.

Finally, there is a Second Screen feature you can get through Universal's pocket BLU app. You are welcome to watch the movie an additional time with this on your computer or phone, but I didn't.

Like other Universal Blu-rays, this one has a BD-Live section, tutorials, and touches such as uHear and D-Box.

Identical to the disc sold on its own, this set's DVD includes "Preparing for Battle", "All Hands on Deck", and "Engage in Battle."

The DVD and, after a long load, Blu-ray opens with ads for E.T., Werewolf: The Best Among Us, Death Race 3: Inferno, Dead in Tombstone, Battleship: The Video Game, Fandango, and The Five-Year Engagement. The Blu-ray follows these with a static screen promoting Universal's second screen technology.

On both formats, the menu places grids over ordinary screen-filling movie clips. The Blu-ray supports placing bookmarks, but does not resume playback after being powered down, which is annoying.

Not wanting the film to get overlooked as it was in theaters, Universal has fitted this combo pack with an embossed cardboard slipcover that is extensively holographic on all four sides. The one in-case insert supplies your combination UltraViolet/digital copy authorization code.

Battleship the movie pays homage to Battleship the board game with this grid serving as the basis of blind weapons firing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

For mindless popcorn fare, you could do worse than Battleship. For cinema, though, you could do much better. This big, dumb doomsday movie unmistakably intended to do big, dumb summer business and failed tremendously. In its defense, it looks worse than it is and the flimsy association to a familiar board game does more harm than good. I'd rather revisit this than any of the three Transformers movies and at least a few other recent alien action movies I can recall. Faint praise, I know, but it's the best I can give Battleship with clear conscience.

Universal's combo pack delivers an hour of extras plus the film-extending All Access viewing mode. But all of that probably matters less to you than the top-notch presentation and the set's four-format versatility. Though not one you are likely to wish to own, the movie could surprise you slightly after all the jokes and pans it drew. It may not be a good film, but it isn't quite the bottom-rung production you expect.

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Battleship Songs List: Stone Temple Pilots - "Interstate Love Song", Billy Squier - "Everybody Wants You", "The Pink Panther Theme", Lucky Clark - "My Lai", The Black Keys - "Gold on the Ceiling", Citizen Cope - "One Lovely Day", Josh Max - "Blue Suede Shoes", Dropkick Murphys - "Hang 'em High", AC/DC - "Hard as a Rock", ZZ Top - "I Got to Get Paid", The Royal Philharmonic - "Waltz: On the Beautiful Blue Danube", "Sentimental Journey", AC/DC - "Thunderstruck", Tom Morello - "Super Battle", Band of Horses - "The Funeral", Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Fortunate Son"

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Reviewed August 28, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Universal Pictures, Hasbro, Bluegrass Films, Film 44, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
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