They did it. The crazy bastards finally did it. They made a big budget action movie out of one of the world’s lamest board games.
Why is it that projects like this don’t get caught in Development Hell with all the things I actually want to see? I mean, it’s Battleship, for God’s sake – the game is built around two bored kids reading grid coordinates to each other. How is it that this is on the fast track to theaters but we’re still waiting on season 5 of Mad Men?
That was a hypothetical question: Movies like this get made because the average filmgoer sees maybe one film in a weekend (if he doesn’t just Torrent it) and studios know that he’s more likely to see something that he already knows and presumably kind of likes. This is why we see so many sequels (“You liked X-Men 2, right? Well, you’ll love X-Men 3, except for that it sucks!”) and movies based on comics and toys.
This still doesn’t explain why there’s a Battleship movie, though, because Battleship is a game that absolutely nobody likes.
A lot of critics derided the Transformers series not just because it was trite and stupid but because the whole epic venture was based on toys. What the critics perhaps didn’t realize was that while Transformers were toys, they were awesome toys – kids love cars, and kids love robots, and Transformers were both. The possibilities were limitless.
Battleship, as defined by Wikipedia, is a pen and paper guessing game that predates World War I. You just try to guess where on the 10x10 grid the other guy has put his ships. They’re making a summer blockbuster film adaptation of a game with no strategy and no learning curve – expect to see Rock, Paper, Scissors and Roulette in theaters soon, one or both of which will probably feature a cash strapped Hellen Mirren in a supporting role.
They just recently released the first teaser for Battleship. While most teasers are big on anticipation and short on exposition (see The Dark Knight Rises or the early Inception teasers), the Battleship teaser is two and a half minutes long and sets up the entire first act of the movie – presumably because anything less than that wouldn’t be enough to convince filmgoing audiences that the movie wasn’t just about two disinterested kids playing a board game because they forgot that video games exist.
The teaser for Battleship opens with some guy lying on a beach making out with Brooklyn Decker, which is a striking divergence from the source material – if a standard game of Battleship involved Frenching Brooklyn Decker, I would not be writing this blog, because I would be too busy playing Battleship.
In the next scene, Liam Neeson shows up. To be honest, I’m always kind of surprised to see Liam Neeson in anything - he played the lead role in Schindler’s List, for Christ’s sake, and now he’s in the movie based on little plastic boats? Anyway, he’s mad at the guy who was making out with Brooklyn Decker (his daughter) because presumably he’s some kind of highly talented fuckup the likes of Tom Cruise in Top Gun. *
*Little known fact: Top Gun is actually based on paper airplanes.
And then the titular battleship is out at sea, and one of the handsome square jawed guys onboard spots some weird metal thing floating in the ocean, and The Guy Who Made Out With Brooklyn Decker (I will continue to refer to him as such because that’s by far the most compelling aspect of his character) goes out to check on it. He touches it, it shocks him, it transforms into a giant alien battleship, etc.
Maybe this is just me, but if I see one more fucking movie where the inciting incident is a handsome guy touching a weird looking thing only to have it shock him and then turn into another weird looking thing while making a bunch of throaty, alien, electronic noise, I’m going to take four shits and die. It’s embarrassing enough that you’re making a movie based on a shitty board game; you’re only compounding it when the event that sets the entire $200 million extravaganza in motion is a dude touching a thing.
It makes you wonder how many potentially dangerous alien artifacts there are on Earth that haven’t called down a legion of otherworldly killing machines, just because nobody’s found them and touched them yet.
So the big alien ship thing transforms and makes a giant force field which encapsulates a wide swath of ocean, all while the U.S. Navy very helpfully doesn’t shoot it, and then the camera zooms dramatically up into the stratosphere to show a top-down view of the Navy fleet and the alien fleet on opposite ends of a wide swath of water – a view that looks not unlike a game of Battleship.
In movies based on game or toy franchises, there’s usually at least a scene or two dedicated to paying lip service to fans of the original product. In Transformers, Shia LeBouf unwittingly uses lines from the old Transformers TV show theme song to woo Megan Fox. The movie Doom, based on the pioneering early 90s first person shooter of the same name, was more or less sold on the novelty of several scenes shot from the first person perspective of one of the space marines.
What the aforementioned shot suggests is that Battleship is going to have at least one scene where we watch from above as two fleets randomly fire in the general direction of one another, just to pay homage to the game. This is reinforced by the fact that some incidental dialogue after the appearance of the alien ship reveals that the Navy’s radar is offline.
This is what you can expect if you go see Battleship: A lot of shots of square jawed guys using trial and error to decide which part of the ocean to blow up next. Also, Brooklyn Decker.
Truman Capps wonders why the Navy doesn’t just use their high powered binoculars – because the two fleets don’t really seem that far apart…