Universal Drops $200 Million on Battleship and Almost Killed It
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?