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Battleship (Blu-ray Review)

24 Aug, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 8/28/12
Sci-Fi Action
Box Office $65.23 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.
Stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Jesse Plemons, Gregory D. Gadson, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol, Liam Neeson.

The film version of Battleship has all the classic elements from the Hasbro board game.

There’s the wayward youth breaking into a convenience store to impress a young woman with the gift of a burrito, and the ensuing love story as the young man joins the Navy with hopes of winning the approval of her father, the admiral.

Plus, the game’s epic soccer match between the navies of America and Japan has been eloquently re-created here. It all leads to a thrilling depiction of the game’s signature trait, as aliens respond to NASA’s attempts to contact a distant planet by invading Hawaii and capturing a radio array in order to send a signal home.

OK, I don’t remember any of that from the game, either.

Unlike other board games with elements that lend themselves to a traditional plot structure, such as the cult-classic Clue (recently re-released on Blu-ray by Paramount), Battleship’s give and take of two fleets blindly firing at each other doesn’t offer much to build on.

Since the only requirement for the story would seem to be the involvement of the U.S. Navy, it’s pretty clear director Peter Berg and his crew decided to use the premise as a springboard to pay tribute to the military. One of the characters is a veteran with both legs amputated, played ably by real life wounded warrior Gregory D. Gadson, an active-duty colonel in the U.S. Army.

Then again, the film is loaded up with enough explosions and carnage to give it the air of a giant homage to Michael Bay. It’s like a bizarre hybrid of Independence Day, Transformers, Armageddon and The Final Countdown (minus the time travel, of course).

The inherent problem with this approach (as opposed to, say, making a period piece set in World War II), is that the U.S. Navy decommissioned its last battleship in 1992. (To be fair, given the game’s set-up of five ships to a fleet, a more accurate though less-catchy name would be Carrier Group.)

The film spends its first hour spinning its wheels as it sets up all the key plot points, which can seem frustrating for a viewer expecting a movie about naval combat. But it really delivers with rousing action and top-notch visual effects in its second half once it stops thinking it needs to develop its characters. And it finds a satisfying-if-implausible solution to the no-more-battleships dilemma while finding time for a few clever references to the game.

The Blu-ray runs the gamut of behind-the-scenes extras, with featurettes about the casting, visual effects and director Berg, plus a tour of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri and a previsualization for an alternate ending. The film has an All Access mode featuring video pop-ups and Berg discussing key scenes, and a second-screen app that delves even deeper.

Oh, as for the storyline the movie came up with, well, Hasbro released a navy vs aliens version of the game shortly after the film hit theaters. Score another point for synergy.

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