Battleship (Two-Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet) (2012)

Actors: Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson
Director: Peter Berg
Format: Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Universal
DVD Release Date: August 28, 2012
Run Time: 131 minutes




Roger Ebert has a philosophy about giving a rating of zero stars: he does so only when he finds something personally offensive about the movie in question.

One star out of four is usually sufficient to tell folks that it sucks, leaving the dreaded “0” for more profound levels of anger. Battleship surely demands such anger, though less for the results onscreen than for the decisions which brought it there.

You certainly won’t find a more potent piece of A-list idiocy anywhere. Battleship was seemingly assembled by those 10,000 monkeys working on Hamlet: there’s a bare notion of an idea desperately clinging to cohesion, only to crumble before a relentless onslaught of mindless (and not particularly interesting) effects sequences that inexorably transform our brains to mush. Supposedly, all that empty sound and noise serves some kind of purpose. Instead, it only reveals the filmmakers’ profound contempt for their audience.

Alien invasions are nothing new, of course, but it usually helps to make the aliens vaguely threatening in some manner before sending them against us. Instead, the mechanized attackers send five ships – one of which breaks apart upon entering our atmosphere and the remainder of which set up shop just off the islands of Hawaii. Despite their ability to set up an impenetrable force field around themselves, their monstrous attack consists of blindly lobbing razor-sharp balls at far-away population centers and sinking nearby naval vessels with explosives resembling delayed-reaction World War I artillery shells.

From those giggle-inducing “dangers,” the filmmakers add a further weakness: any human vessels attempting to engage the aliens can basically shut them down simply by pointing their weapons in another direction. Intergalactic space travel, the energy to generate invisible barriers at will . . . and all we have to do to stop them is adopt a “just kidding” pose until we’re ready to shoot.

Against them, the three U.S. Navy warships stuck inside the shield feel like supreme overkill. They sail out there as part of a war-gaming exercise and find themselves trapped, led by a play-by-his-own-rules lieutenant (Taylor Kitsch) and the expected gang of lovable misfits who pull together in the face of the clanking death machines bearing down on them.

Characterization comes second in a movie like this, but even the most brazen piece of eye candy needs some viable surrogates to hold our sympathies. Battleship treats the human characters as more boring versions of its effects: largely interchangeable and existing only to deliver some A-Team style montages at the appropriate moments.

Director Peter Berg renders their heroics a toneless fog bank of white noise, devoid of emotional build-up, discernable pacing or any appreciable point. Colossal plot holes and idiotic story points are to be expected in summer blockbusters like this. But when the money shots themselves become active irritants, we go beyond stupid movies to a whole new level of cinematic hell.

Blame for it all lies in the process itself. Battleship started as a board game and attained movie status by corporate fiat. Its development reflects that genesis: all focus groups and hackneyed formula produced without the faintest trace of a human heartbeat. It might as well be a calculator for all the creative investment that went into it. It exists solely to sell tickets to the gullible, as well as serving as a two-hour advertisement for whichever corporate partners saw fit to sign on.

It can’t even muster any “so bad it’s good” credentials; those at least foster some fodder for jokes and an attendant modicum of goodwill. This is just boring - the precise kind of noisy, irritating boring that suffocates everything beneath it. Small wonder audiences rejected it in droves when it first came out. You can only fool the public for so long, and with a piece of commercialism this brazen, epic failure was almost assured. I have no doubt that the Blu-ray release will quickly follow suit.

THE DISC: Having said that, the Blu-ray does decently enough by the film. Extras include a fistful of featurettes, an “all access” mode which plays behind-the-scenes material alongside the film itself, a pre-visualization sequence covering an alternate version of the ending, and a tour of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship which plays a large role in the movie. Sound and visual quality are top notch – though that doesn’t make much of a dent in the barrage of screeching CGI they deliver.

WORTH IT? Only for masochists, Liam Neeson completionists and contrarians who deliberately love films that everyone else hates.

RECOMMENDATION: Battleship works best as a cautionary example for any corporate executives who think they know better than the filmgoers. Sadly, I suspect that the lesson will be lost on those most in need of receiving it.

- Rob Vaux



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