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Universal Drops $200 Million on Battleship and Almost Killed It

by
August 13, 2010
Source: THR

Battleship

As Universal executives nervously await the weekend's box office returns for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the studio is already in the midst of an even bigger, more expensive gamble with their adaptation of the classic board game Battleship. THR reports that the Peter Berg directed naval-action movie will cost the studio around $200 million (maybe more) and that's for a film without any major movie stars on board inspired by the potentially tired trend of turning toys into movies. All this money is being spent on a film that came close to being nixed back in June, and that doesn't exactly make me confident in the film's potential success.

Surely Universal is hoping that they're taking a Titanic-style risk by throwing all this money at a risky and expensive venture with the hopes of audiences eating up the science fiction twist on the board game. The story sees an international fleet of various battleships coming together to fight a water-bound armada of an otherworldly origin. However, the studio may find themselves with a different Titanic analogy if Battleship sinks to the bottom of the box office charts and fails to find an audience. All I know is that Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna aren't exactly the best names to draw me into an epic naval battle with aliens. And while Peter Berg has demonstrated some experience with action (The Kingdom, Hancock), I'm not so sure it's his forte.

Meanwhile, there's worry that audiences are getting tired of films being lifted directly from intellectual property like toys or games. Transformers has always been the model for success in this arena, but not many toys are as cool as giant fucking robots fighting in the middle of a huge metropolitan area. However, Universal chairman Adam Fogelson doesn't seem to be worried. He says: "You're talking about a property that worldwide has more awareness than most, if not all, of Hasbro properties that preceded it. Worldwide, more people have played Battleship than played with Transformers." Yeah, but I'll bet more people have eaten cheeseburgers than played Battleship and I don't see anyone making moves on Cheeseburger: The Movie (and no Good Burger doesn't count).

Fogelson stands his ground in defense of their big gamble on the potential blockbuster and mentions some interesting factors about their approach to adapting elements of the game into the movie. "There's the fact that you can't see your opponent, the underlying emotional reasons behind who plays the game and how they play the game. There's absolutely a way within the story that's been constructed here to take advantage of the game's name and elements that will make the movie fun." He might be right, but I think he's shooting for the moon by bringing up Pirates of the Caribbean as a model for success. I don't want to be a naysayer, because honestly I'd love to be pleasantly surprised, but I'm not exactly excited for Battleship yet. Are you?

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  • Jo Momma
    This has FAIL written all over it. I'm going to laugh so hard when the movie bombs and they lose millions.
  • http://www.classicalgeektheatre.com Mouse
    Pirates, not Transformers, is the model for this. The Michael Bay Transformers movie is an adaption of the cartoons / comics, not the action figures themselves; there was a pre-existing storyline. Everyone KNEW "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Movie" was a terrible idea. They were wrong. Everyone KNEW "The Haunted Mansion: The Movie" was a terrible idea. They were right. This does not have BRILLIANT or FAIL written on it for anyone unless they've seen the script or talked to Berg about his vision.
  • Logan
    well this has alexander skarsgard in it so im really hoping it does well and he becomes a famous movie actor :D
  • Eli
    true mouse. However, the idea that it's a board game is going to turn anyone off at first. Well, not everyone. It will fall to the wayside because the genre of toys and games is played out in Hollywood and so is the war genre.
  • Xerxex
    Hell I'm all for this! Peter Berg is a decent director in my eyes, he did s wonderful job with Friday Night Lights, and The Kingdom was pretty good, I'm still interested!
  • dove89
    Im going to wait to see the trailer before i pass judgment in if its going to be a win or fail.
  • DinoChow
    This sounds like a horrible idea, the kind of movie we'll be talking about for decades as one of the worst ever made. Rihanna in a battleship movie about aliens? Damn, that might make a great SNL skit, but a movie? I don't think so.
  • Z
    Hey Ethan. don't be hating on "Good Burger" which is a classical film with serious political undertones.
  • Xerxex
    or Dinochow this could be one of the most accalimed movies of all time! At least wait for a trailer!
  • Wylles
    Ok, this sounds as dumb as trying to take Tetris to the Big Screen...
  • beavis
    i want to wait for a trailer before passing any kind of judgement on this - however, having rihanna and tom arnold as 2 of the "stars" in this has got me very nervous. as to the title of this article i immediately thought: 200 mil on this and "the hobbit" is struggling to get going?........hollywood is run by idiots.
  • Nitrium
    I'm actually pretty excited about this one if only for the fact that Alexander Skarsgaard is in it and I haven't really seen any AWESOME naval films in a long time. Sure, It's either a hit or a miss situation and personally I don't see why theyre willing to take such a huge gamble, that said I hope this turns into a hit. And if not.. Well.. We can only take comfort that Rihanna's movie career will hit a significant roadblock lol.
  • Loser
    I am really excited about this one too. Taylor Kitsch is a really good actor and Skarsgård is always fun to watch when far away from True Blood crap and I really think Peter Berg has lots of potential becoming a new Michael Mann given time
  • Bash
    @ beavis Hollywood isn't run by idiots, it's run by greedy, money grabbing 'execs' who have ensured, yet again, they are getting a huge pay day before a single frame of he movie has been shot. It's exactly this kind of behaviour which causes studios such as MGM to end up in trouble.
  • Mr.Cookie
    I get-a-feeling someone is getting fired at Universal summer 2012.
  • CHACK
    Hollywood and specifically Universal sure know how to throw money down the drain, at best this is one of those shite disaster 2 parters they show on "movies4men" on some C list satellite channel. Rihanna for Christs sake. Berg was all slotted in to direct "Lone Survivor" based on the incredible Marcus Luttrell book about Navy Seals in Afghanistan and that was announced over 18 months ago so godknows where that is - Battleships,what next Pictionary or Jenga movies!!?
  • beavis
    #16 - haven't heard about "lone survivor"........it sounds cool.
  • Kenji
    $200mil on a boardgame movie?? so sad. i hope it fails. maybe they'll learn then. probably not
  • ImaginaryVisionary
    Peter Berg hasn't made any show stopping films, but I for one, am a fan of his film style. I think he's the perfect fit for a movie like this. As someone above noted, there really hasn't been a Navy movie in a long time (U-571 being the last?) and clearly with a budget that size they're not making a movie based on a "board game" but more or less a film about a naval battle with the name of a board game. I would not be surprised to see this movie being about two competing/rival Naval captains of some kind either at war, or in some sort of training exercise (ala Top Gun, a movie also void of big name stars at the time, but created some pretty big name stars). Berg's hand-cam, over the shoulder, and through branches and window frames style of film making is perfect for a film set at sea where the scene is always in motion (bc of the water). As long as they don't hype this movie as a movie based on the popular board game, this movie will probably do well. I think it sounds interesting.
  • meatcarnage
    this movie smells like crap already.. next thing you know.. they'll cast nicholas cage
  • Rokk
    I've found Berg to be a competent director. I must admit it that from what little I've read of the script/premise I am not jumping with excitement, but I AM very interested in its potential...and with all that coin behind it, it can't hurt (and yes, I know it doesn't guarantee anything before somebody screams WATERWORLD at me). I'd wager that 50%+ of the negative posts would be reversed if they didn't think it was linked to a boardgame. I agree with Imaginary Visionary on this one. If they don't make the link to the classic game the main hook (CLUE! anyone?) then I think it has a chance...although making back it's money on that kind of budget will be tough. Count me cautiously optimistic as this early juncture.
  • BinaryChaos
    I think it would be more interesting if the movie took place in space involving a lot of battleships. Kids especially would be thrilled about a movie like that. All you would need with that backdrop is a good story line. It probably sounds generic but look how well Star Trek did and lets not forget the opening scene to Star Wars Episode III with the space battle happening over Coruscant.

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