Hopefully movie studios will finally learn a lesson this year: Spending a boatload of money on an action movie that has no built-in audience is just stupid. And yes, a board game does not automatically have a built-in audience. (While the Eighties comedy Clue: The Movie actually turned out to be a fun murder mystery, it was a way more modestly budgeted movie and had a great cast. That was also a total fluke.) Further, making a movie loaded with state of the art special effects will not necessarily impress people in an age where every other major movie has piled them on, and having a big pop star (in this case, Rihanna) often makes no difference.
What a movie about a Transformers-style alien invasion has to do with the classic Hasbro board game Battleship is anyone’s guess. The idea certainly did not get a lot of support from the public this past weekend, who spent twice as much money checking out Marvel’s unstoppable superhero team The Avengers during its third weekend in theaters. Battleship has grossed over $200 million internationally so far, so it’s on its way to recouping it’s reported $220 million budget. Yes, that’s right, that awful-looking movie cost that much. It’s as inexplicable as the reported $250 million that Disney sunk into this year’s big bomb, John Carter, which actor Taylor Kitsch also starred in. Great luck he’s had this year. Battleship will make it’s money back, but it’s still a huge disappointment, barely making $25 million domestically in its opening weekend. You don’t make a $220 million movie in hopes of breaking even. You hope to at least triple that amount in box office grosses. No word yet on whether sales of the board game will be positively affected, but it seems doubtful since the game has nothing to do with high-tech aliens.
Imagine what could have happened if Universal took Battleship‘s bloated $220 million budget and made eleven $20 million pictures that had better stories? The studios could have seen a way better return on investment, and audiences would have been a lot happier. I’d rather see Liam Neeson in The Grey any day over Battleship.
There are many reasons why The Avengers are crushing the competition: a better writer/director, a better cast, a classic superhero franchise that people have been waiting decades to see onscreen and a marketing campaign fueled by cameos in other Marvel Comics movies starting with Iron Man in 2008. Now that’s a winning formula for a true blockbuster.