This week, Hasbro released the trailer for its 2012 offering, Battleship, directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, Very Bad Things). When it was first announced a couple years ago that the next stomping ground for movies would be to turn board games into films, the news was met with a bevy of jokes. But is a movie based on a board game necessarily a bad thing?
Conceivably anything could work as a movie; it’s all about the execution. People still love 1985’s Clue. In the video for California Gurls, Katy Perry used Candyland a backdrop to explain how she nakedly overtook a drug kingpin. And, My Left Foot was an obvious rip-off of Pictionary.
With a game like Battleship, the story is obvious: modern or pre-modern naval warfare. Set it during some unspecified (or specified) war, two armies, five boats, competing against each other, isolated on the seas. Some Das Boot, some Master and Commander, some Billy Budd, some other stuff.
Let’s see what they did.
Generic robots-aliens. It had to be generic robot-aliens. Why does it always have to be generic robot-aliens? Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, Cowboys and Aliens (presumably), Transformers– what is with Hollywood’s penchant for these hybrids? It’s not as if, with the exception of Transformers, these works are particularly successful or beloved. Yet the studio allegedly invested $200 million (pre-marketing) into more generic robot-aliens, though I guess placing them on the high seas is different.
As for the rest of the film, it doesn’t look like anything we haven’t seen a million times before, with characters cribbed straight from Armageddon but without the personality. My favorite moment in the trailer comes from Liam Neeson, whose exposition dialogue might be among the best/worst I’ve ever heard.
A lot of movies, particularly those featuring a Hot Shot Young Recruit WHO DOESN’T PLAY BY THE RULES!!, have moments like this, where the older figure disrespects the audience by giving a Cliff Notes character description of the young rebel before he goes on his hero’s journey.
Even 2009’s Star Trek had Captain Christopher Pike giving a brief bio of James T. Kirk to Kirk while they’re at the bar after the fight. Yet at least that scene tried to seem somewhat natural. Compared to “You went from enlisted to an officer faster than anyone in the history of the United States Navy, but I have never ever seen a man waste himself better than you!,” the Kirk/Pike moment couldn’t have been integrated more subtly. In Battleship, you expect Captain Neeson (the father of the girl HSYR (Taylor Kitsch) is dating, by the way) to start babbling about the childhood tragedy that made HSYR into the man he is today.
At least they saved the inevitable “You Sunk My Battleship” or, alternatively, “I Sunk Your Battleship” for a future trailer.
The disappointing thing about Battleship is what it means to future board game-based franchises. Will Risk no longer be about several fascist armies battling one another to take control of the world, and instead be about humans banding together to fight robot-aliens? Will Monopoly be about something other than the value of greed and the destructiveness of fair business dealings as it closes with the one “genuine” player dying penniless and alone on the Boardwalk, his last remaining piece of property? Will Sorry! have anything to do with atonement at all?
I am especially concerned for those who purchase the Battleship-Brand Battleship-Tie-In Limited Edition Battleship Battleship. Who would want to be a human tugboat when you can be a robot-alien tugboat?