With what is being called a massive failure at the box office, pulling in just $25 million domestic dollars (or 12% of its budget), Peter Berg‘s Battleship is sinking, but not before firing a warning shot across the bow of stupid ideas. And by a “warning shot across the bow” I mean a giant, moronic cruise missile.
Battleship wasn’t destined for failure – after all, almost any idea can be made good. If you ignored the title, the idea of a few naval vessels fighting off aliens sounds pretty cool and not altogether stupid.
However, you slap the Hasbro logo in-front of the credits and include a sequence where a missile destroyer blindly fires into the ocean while a captain shouts out “J-11” and the stupidity quotient rises exponentially.
I’d like to phrase this as a “what did Hollywood learn?” type article, but the problem with the studio system is that they never learn. After all, Transformers and GI Joe both are tied explicitly to the popularity of toys and they made a lot of money, so certainly it is not the idea of toys on the big screen that is bad.
Except that it kind of is. There is a big difference between talking robots, real American heroes, and a board game of pegs. You can probably pick up on it already – two of those feature actual characters that can speak and have emotions, while the out man out features little round plastic pegs and tiny plastic battleships.
Adaptations are well and good. I love the GI Joe franchise and have high hopes for the second movie. I don’t think anyone out there loves a board game to the point where they think “Man, I would live to see this somehow acted out on stage.” Solitaire, Life, Chutes and Ladders, none of these are compelling stories. They’re fun ways to waste time with family and friends, but no one gives a fuck about the Monopoly man – even though he’s at least a person who could emote.
From the start the very notion that Battleship was tied to the board game crippled it. Whether this was Hasbro’s interference or not, we don’t know. Having heard Berg talk at WonderCon, he genuinely loves the Navy and his basic idea of two warring forces clashing sounded good. Just, the problem is, it couldn’t just be the Navy vs Aliens. It also had to be Battleship. It had to have that stupid board game sequence with blind firing into the ocean.
Now, let’s not put all the blame on Hasbro. Berg may have had to include those scenes, but he didn’t have to make a movie that was oozing cheese from every pore that wasn’t already full of an explosion. Hasbo didn’t insist on the Pink Panther theme, nor did they request a flat character performance from Taylor Kitsch, who, right about now, probably has as much sway as Andy Dick.
So beyond the board game adaptation, Battleship still had a lot of failures – but the biggest failure is that no one gave a shit. Clearly. No one went to see it. No one wanted to see a movie based off of a board game that’s been around for decades and has no characters, plot, or story. If there is one thing Hollywood needs to learn is that tie-ins don’t have to be so explicitly tied in. No one wanted a Battleship movie, but they’d buy a Navy vs Aliens Battleship board game, ya dig?
Hasbro could have produced this exact same movie but called it something else and not been ridiculed for it. They could have toned down the board game sequence. They could have made a movie, not a tie-in.
That is the rub. That is what Hollywood must learn from this.
First and foremost, you must make a good movie. Then you can figure out how to sell shit around it. Let’s be completely honest – this was a shitty idea from the start that was the butt of jokes since day one. We all saw this coming. Hollywood should have seen this coming. All it takes is dedication to the craft, not blind dedication to the business. Every stupid secondary sale-motivated movie pushes me past my boiling point. You make a good movie, or TV show, first, and fill it with cool heroes, ninja turtles, dinosaurs, or awesome tanks, and I’ll buy the toys. Just don’t sell me an advertisement for the toys for $16.