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September 6, 2012
Battleship Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
12/4/20129/8/2012Sony UniversalPeter Berg
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MTaylor Kitsch

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The USS Missouri appears in Battleship.

Several years ago Universal did a deal with Hasbro for films based on many board games. These included Candy Land, Clue, Ouija, Stretch Armstrong and Battleship. Now, however that deal has been scrapped with Universal selling back most of the rights, and the only movie to eventuate was this one, Battleship. When you think about it, this really was the most logical property to be converted into a feature film, although the storyline really has little resemblance to the board game. Aliens anyone?

There really are so many things wrong with this film that it's not funny, but that's not the point as much like Independence Day or Battle: Los Angeles this isn't about the intricate plot or A-Grade acting, but rather puts style over substance, and in the style department it's a clear winner. Battleship has some of the most impressive visual effects (thanks to ILM), and battles, that we've ever seen in a film. Unfortunately the first 30 minutes of the film are quite pedestrian. Let's go back to the start...

The film opens in a bar with a young man, Hopper (Kitsch), trying to impress a gorgeous blonde named Sam (Decker) by getting her a chicken burrito. When the local convenience store is closed, he attempts to break in with "hilarious" results for the viewer, and a wakeup call that sees his brother getting Hopper to join the Navy.

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Tadanobu Asano is superb as Captain Yugi Nagata.
Fast forward some time and Hawaii is hosting a large-scale international naval coalition exercise. During this exercise the come across a strange object and three destroyers are cut off from the rest of the fleet by an unknown alien force. After attempting first contact things start to go amiss and any attempt to take on the enemy tends to end in annihilation - for the humans. But there's a bigger picture at play as the invading alien ships have another motive with the Hawaiian islands.

It's not a great script, it's not great acting from anyone (well, we didn't mind Tadanobu Asano as Captain Yugi Nagata and Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane is good in his limited role), some things don't make sense (radio waves being shot into space that look like a laser, effectively handbrake turning a battleship!) and the twists and turns are predictable. What this film has going for it though are the wonderful visual effects (we can't stress enough how great this film looks), the gripping action sequences, and, well, that's it. Good thing then that pretty much the last 90 minutes of the film is non-stop action as that makes the film worth a watch in itself.

We must point out a couple of nice nods to the board game too including the fact that the enemies bombs are shaped like the pegs in the board game, and the early on the human ships lose their radar, and the result is a grid resembling that on the board game. Oh, make sure you check out the post-credits scene too. Doesn't add anything to the film, but it's worth a look.

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This isn't quite the board game, but Battleship the movie, with aliens!
Walk into Battleship expecting something, big, dumb, over the top, and almost nonsensical and you will probably enjoy this film. It is indeed all of those things and about as true to the term "Popcorn Flick" as one could imagine. This won't win any awards for scriptwriting, acting or direction, but the relentless action will have action fans overjoyed.

One thing that can't be denied about Battlefield on Blu-Ray is the gorgeous video transfer which is presented in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio at Blu-Ray's usual 1080p resolution. The video has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and with a bitrate that often hovers above 30Mbps Battleship is a gorgeous looking film with fantastic contrast levels, shadow detail and fine detail throughout. Be it the lush jungles of the Hawaiian Islands, the gorgeous external shots of the ships, the cramped ship interiors everything just "pops" with detail and life.

Fortunately, unlike many other films that suffer with poor visual effects when viewed at 1080p, the same can't be said here with a lavish production budget (over $US200 million) ensuring this movie looks the best, and it shows here. In fact we would not only call this reference quality, but one of the most impressive live-action films we've ever seen on the format. Gorgeous.

Every bit as impressive as the visuals is the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that aggressively uses the surround sound and LFE channels that will have you on the edge of your seat at all times. Music throughout the movie - be it the orchestral score from Steve Jablonsky or the booming soundtrack from AC/DC and ZZ Top among others - is absolutely fantastic. I loved the scene from 1:40:20 when the soldiers are firing up the ship to the sounds of Thunderstruck!

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Battleship is choc full of destruction.
The music though is nothing compared to the booming sound effects. When the ships rumble past, the cannons blast or the ordinance explodes your room will shake. Fortunately the sound mix on this film is superb and even with one of the loudest soundtracks ever dialogue remains clear at all times.

If there is one very minor complaint to be leveled at the audio in this film, and we're not sure if this is in the original sound mix or the Blu-Ray transfer, it's that there isn't quite enough "deep" bass. When the alien ships first appear and crash into the water I expected a little more "oomph" the crash. There are a few other moments throughout the film, that despite being crazy loud in general, there was a lack of low-end bass. We would have loved to have seen a 7.1 audio track to add that little something extra.

Other languages provided on this Blu-Ray disc include Japanese, French, Italian, German, Catala and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks at 768kbps - each of which offers a pretty decent, and lively, sound field so those needing another language should be pretty happy.

Subtitles are provided in Japanese, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Catala, Dutch, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and Chinese. We sampled the English track at several point in the movie and as well as being accurate to the on-screen dialogue, the subtitles are placed near the actors talking for ease in following conversations which is appreciated.

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Don't worry, Rihanna is decent in the film.
Upon starting this disc there are several trailers and screens that you'll encounter. First up are a couple of trailers that load from the Internet, then language selection, then all the copyright notices and finally the 100 Years of Universal celebration trailer (2:28). Fortunately these can be skipped but it does slow down the process of hitting the main menu (over 5 minutes if you let it run). Annoying.

Alternate Ending Previsualisation (7:33/HD): Following a brief intro from director Peter Berg this is a rather lengthy pre-visualised alternate ending to the film. It's in CG and the quality is actually quite good.

USS Missouri VIP Tour (20:07/HD): Certainly the most impressive extra on this disc is a great look around the legendary Battleship, the USS Missouri which was the last Battleship built by the United States. It was also the ship upon which the Japanese signed the Surrender Document from World War II. This featurette sees the film’s director taking you through the main areas of the ship with plenty of interesting facts along the way from various past crewmember.

Preparing for Battle (11:09/HD): This segment looks at turning the Hasbro board game into a feature film including the lack of radar, using the bullet shaped like a peg from the game, and selecting Peter Berg, whose father was a naval historian, to direct. It then looks at the cast and crew touring real ships, and filming on the Missouri.

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Aliens are superbly designed.
All Hands On Deck: The Cast (11:40/HD): Unsurprisingly this featurette focuses on the cast in the film including using real veterans.

Engage in Battle (6:58/HD): Split up into two parts ("Shooting at Sea" (3:10) and "All Aboard The Fleet" (3:48)) this featurette looks at the difficulty of filming at sea given the changing weather conditions and sea sickness. There's some good on-set footage, interviews with cast and crew, and filming on real ships, but ultimately too short to be of much worth.

Commander Pete (5:46/HD): This extra focuses on director Peter Berg and his directing style.

The Visual Effects of Battleship (11:30/HD): One of the strongest aspects of this film are the stunning visual effects and in this decent documentary looks at the work performed by ILM in the film with particular attention to the water simulation, and enemy design. This is definitely worth a watch.

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Visual effects in Battleship are stunning.
Battleship The Video Game Trailer (3:00/HD): We never reviewed, nor played, the game, but this trailer gives you a quick look at what to expect. Be aware the game doesn't review too well and this does little to provide positive impressions.

Don't go into Battleship expecting an Oscar-worthy film (although it may attract some attention for visual effects), this film was never aiming for that. From a technical perspective the audio visual presentation on this Blu-Ray is quite superb. Throw in a few extras and fans of this film, action films, or indeed Michael Bay's Transformers franchise, would do well to check this disc out.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Sony Universal. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.