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Five Reasons Why “Battleship” Isn’t a “…Hit!”

May 23, 2012

With its $209 million price tag, Universal’s Battleship cost almost as much a real-life U.S. Navy battleship. Yet the would-be summer tentpole collapsed in its opening weekend, taking in only $25.5 million. (It’s not tanking as badly overseas, but it’s still likely the project will end up underwater and the studio will need a bailout.) Why didn’t Battleship show up on more moviegoers’ radar? Let me count the reasons why it sank.

1. It’s based on a freaking boardgame! Universal tried to clone the success of another toy-based movie franchise, marketing Battleship as the latest product “from Hasbro, the company that brought you Transformers.” But there’s a big difference between transforming-robot action figures—which can easily be imagined as players in a storyline—and a game that consists entirely of two players sitting and saying things like, “B1…Miss. A5…hit! You sank my Battleship!” Andy Samberg’s idea for Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie, which he pitched to Battleship star Liam Neeson on SNL‘s “Get in the Cage” bit, was only slightly more ludicrous. Maybe the movie’s makers should have looked at the initial box-office failure of 1985’s Clue: The Movie (which has since attained a cult following). Or even Real Steel, which was a minor hit, but probably would’ve gotten knocked out at the box office if it had been sold as what it really was: Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie.

2. Taylor Kitsch is not a movie star. If that wasn’t clear before the colossal failure of Disney’s John Carter, it is now. Sure, it was worth the risk to cast the relative unknown as Gambit in Wolverine, but nobody went to see that movie because he was in it. And he scored in more ways than one as Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, but nobody watched that show. Not to mix my sports metaphors, but Kitsch’s starring role in Oliver Stone’s upcoming Savages could be his third cinematic strike.

3. Neither are Rihanna or Brooklyn Decker. Ear-catching pop star and eye-catching swimsuit model, yes. Convincing petty officer and sailor’s fianceé, not so much. Decker also costars in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which means you can go to almost any multiplex this weekend and enjoy a Double Decker. Thanks to Bret Watson for coining that phrase in our Two Cranky Guys podcast review of Decker’s bikini’d debut in Just Go With It.

4. Liam Neeson is a movie star, but he makes way too many movies. Loved him in The Grey (which is just out on DVD and Blu-Ray—if you haven’t seen it, do it now!) Hated him in Wrath of the Titans. Can’t wait to see him in The Dark Knight Rises. But not so much that I’d pay to see him in Battleship.

5. Aliens don’t need to be every movie. They could’ve turned Battleship into a thrilling military adventure, but instead better-dead-than-RED screenwriters Erich and Jon Hoeber had to throw in outer-space invaders. We’ve already suffered through a terrible extraterrestrial Western (Cowboys & Aliens), and we’ve got more little green men coming in Men in Black III and the awful-looking Ben Stiller-Jonah Hill-Vince Vaughn comedy The Watch (formerly known as Neighborhood Watch, before George Zimmerman rendered that title radioactive). Forget immigration reform—it’s the fictional aliens who need to be illegal-ized.

Did you see Battleship? If not, what stopped you? Post a comment—that’s an order!

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