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Will Battleship: The Movie Float?

November 22, 2009

While researching why Hollywood seems unable to conceive a single new movie idea, I found a reason to root for a Hancock sequel.  Since Peter Berg, director of the first Will Smith/Charlize Theron almost-good-but-ultimately-bad superhero movie), will be spending time on the follow-up, maybe he’ll spend less time on Battleship, the movie he’s agreed to make about the beloved paper-and-pen/board/electronic game.  Then again, even if Hancock 2, the devil we know, did somehow delay or abort Battleship (it won’t), it would be a Pyrrhic victory if a victory at all.

If you haven’t noticed, studios and producers are snapping up every single 70s and 80s cultural artifact and trying to get it made, or remade, into a movie.  This certainly isn’t new, but the scope and intensity of the recent rights-buying spree is.  Everything from Stretch Armstrong to Bazooka Joe to freaking Asteroids will become a film if all goes well (or poorly?).  Universal is vying for the lead in the conversion of old toys and games to the big screen: “’Battleship’ is the latest in Universal’s strong push toward branded entertainment films, and Hasbro has fast become an increasingly important cog in that campaign.”  In addition to the game of naval warfare, Universal (or the hipper “U” in the article) has also optioned a bunch of other table-based pastimes: Monopoly (this was already made as Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross, but since Ridley Scott is attached I’ll probably watch it), the aforementioned Stretch Armstrong, Clue (this was already a great movie, so why remake it?), Candyland (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), Ouija (with Michael Bay involved it will contain explosions, somehow, and hotties in their early 20s, which it should anyway because it’s going to be a crappy horror movie).

Since there’s been no talk of Battleship: The Movie plot or characters yet (and the final product may effectively not contain them), we have only Berg’s description to contemplate: “a contemporary story of an international five-ship fleet engaged in a very dynamic, violent and intense battle.”  With no details about the opposing force, unless the enemy drops giant red plastic pegs onto ships containing large cylindrical holes, the only connection to the game will be that both have battleships in them.  This would be the same relationship that the game Operation has to, say, ER.  Otherwise, Battleship will be just another big-budget war movie only tangentially related to the game that “inspired” it.  However, Hasbro sells a zillion extra units to nostalgic thirty- and forty-somethings without having to spend R&D money on a new game, and Universal doesn’t have to come up with any new movie ideas.

Let’s hope Berg, son of a naval historian, can inject some of the squirm-inducing discomfort of Very Bad Things or over-the-top campiness of The Rundown.  This is rare for a war movie, though, so we’ll probably get The Kingdom at sea: surface treatment of an interesting subject, accompanied by loud, jerky, lengthy action sequences.  Because of Berg’s early track record, I might give this one the benefit of the doubt.  I fear, however, that Battleship will be sunk before it ever leaves the harbor.

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