Battleship Preview: Expect 'Big, Fun Escapism' for Your Inner 12-Year-Old
That said, Battleship intentionally acknowledges the legacy of Pearl Harbor, where some of the film was shot. The impetus for giving the Japanese fleet a higher profile in the story came from Berg's recon trip to the historic site, where he was surprised to see an American ship docked symbolically side-by-side with a Japanese ship. "If my grandfather would have been told that 2010 there'd be a Japanese warship and an American warship peacefully tied up and guys going back and forth exchanging information and sharing technology... this is where we are today. I thought it was fantastic. We're great allies with the Japanese now and our navies, our militaries work very closely together. I wanted to show that; that's why Japan is in the film."
But Japan's not the only international relation Berg is consciously appealing to with Battleship; he's keenly aware that in today's climate, his $200 million epic must find a global audience in order to succeed. "When you're dealing with films like this, you need to have an international footprint," he said. "All of these films are quadrupling the fiscal performance abroad versus America. America's becoming less important in the big picture, and my particular brand of humor or sarcasm doesn't necessarily translate to two 18-year-old kids in South Korea."
The solution is to universalize appeal, which is why Battleship's themes and story seem rather simplistic. "I think it's important to find universal themes," Berg said. "A father loving a son; a screw-up attempting to find his voice and find his inherent heroism -- themes that maybe I wasn't as interested in when I was young and acting and I wanted to break the rules. I was more subversive and sarcastic as an actor than you can afford to be as a filmmaker.
"I'm probably a bit less glib and less sarcastic and more aware of what universal reality is: the love of a parent for a child; the love of a man for a woman or a woman for a man; the desire to protect the innocent," he continued. "Those are themes that maybe sound corny and a bit grand, but if you can make that real, that's where these films want to live."
But the challenges of Battleship, along with its scope, were part of the appeal. "You're seeing studios willing to take these giant gambles and make these big, epic, four-quadrant films," Berg said. "When you look at what Michael [Bay] did with Transformers and what [Jon] Favreau did and what J.J. Abrams has been doing, we're seeing the appetite for the studios to make these big spectacle films and to give filmmakers like myself this incredible freedom to take something like a board game of Battleship, which is really an essence of a film about naval warfare, and say, 'OK, go. What can you do with that? Can you do something with that?'"
That's the thing; if Battleship succeeds, and on a global scale, it could elevate Berg's profile as a director closer to the company of the Bays, the Camerons, the Favreaus -- filmmakers who can deliver enormous-scale action and start franchises. The director has been graduating steadily to bigger and bigger budgets since his 1998 debut with Very Bad Things, and his next project will be the "violent" and "brutal" Lone Survivor, "a great story about a group of Navy SEALs who were killed in Afghanistan" based on Marcus Luttrell's memoirs of a 2005 Taliban-hunting mission gone wrong. But he's not counting out the possibility of more Battleship films. Actually, quite the contrary.
"I never go done in one," he said of returning for potential Battleship sequels. "I'm always thinking, let's keep going. I love these characters; I love these two dudes. I love the world they come from, and I loved the idea of the goldilocks planets and the fact that if there is credible life out there, it's probably going to be from a planet that shares a similar relationship to its sun that we do to ours, and it's very possible that the form of life that's relatable to us, that has a neurological system, that has a respiratory system, that has emotion, that has thoughts, that has reasoning capabilities. That's the tenor of the thread of Battleship. I'm certainly hoping that it's something that we can explore for a long time."
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