Hollywood magic: for 200 millions simple pen and paper game becomes a battle for Earth with aliens.


Director: Peter Berg | Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson

Budget: 200 million | Box office: 285 million

IMDB: 6.6 | Metacritic: 43

Battleship, Hasbro

The first meeting about making a Battleship movie must have been really funny, something in a vein of Hudsucker Proxy business idea. The guy comes with a sheet of tiled paper, draws a square and some small squares inside and says: here is a movie idea, give me 200 million dollars. Hilarious, isn’t it?

Reality of course is a bit more complicated. Although Battleship is a century old pen and paper game, Hasbro owns a board game version of the idea with plastic figures and such, which was rebranded as Battleship just in 2008 and the company started pouring money to promote it. Still not worth 200 million? Then what about another Hasbro property, which after three movies generated almost three billions?

Actually Transformers comes in mind quite a few times when watching Battleship. The main action sequences, falling skyscrapers and flying metal wheels, which destroy everything in their path, looks like reused scrap from Michael Bay’s trilogy. But that’s reasonable given the same production companies and licensing powerhouse – at least they don’t steel from others. And anyway there must be something else during more than two hours, not just artillery fight between  proud American (and one Japanese) warships and mysterious powerful aliens.

These scenes are the core of Battleship and it’s a relieve to see them done quite impressively – another great work of effects studio Double Negative. You really can feel the raw power of modern smaller warships and of course the titular battleship. It’s nice that aliens don’t use some red matter type of energy or Star Wars lasers – they rely on metal too, albeit a bit more effective. The essential idea of Battleship game – how to fight an invisible enemy and guess its moves – is nicely depicted too.

Sadly all of the good stuff adds-up to about quarter of the movie, one third tops. The rest of 130 minutes (strangely IMDb doesn’t show the duration) is just useless attempts to create believable characters, some personal backstories for the main event. There’s just no connection to actors or their relationships. The Martian Taylor Kitsch is probably ok for the movie, but I can’t understand why Liam Neeson is appearing in such roles when he can do stuff like Taken? The big (and probably expensive) deal – Rihanna – doesn’t feel in place at all.

Even with some interesting ideas and good efforts put into its making, like using real ships and troops for mass scenes, I really want Battleship not to succeed. That’s a rare thing talking about movies, but this time it represents a resentful idea of turning popular but meaningless in a wider sense games to the big screen. How would you imagine a Monopoly movie, for example? It’s already being considered. I can live with Transformers and GI Joes, but if Battleship becomes a financial success I’m afraid we’ll be bombarded by meaningless expensive movies of famous brands. But as the movie opened as number 1 in many foreign territories, we just might see such future.

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