Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flopping "Battleship" to torpedo Hasbro?

Rihanna? Really?
 Probably not, although this Forces article suggests that the venerable toymaker can;t help but be disappointed by the failure of the high-budget Aliens vs. Navy flick to wow critics or audiences.

Hasbro has had high hopes that movie based on classics like Battleship, Clue and Monopoly might boost interest in their sagging board games, much like how the transformers movies have juiced that toy line.

I've wondered since I heard about the projects how this could possibly work, knowing the way Hollywood treats outside intellectual properties like books, plays and short stories. I think, for the most part, Hollywood adaptations of non-original screenplays do violence to the creative vision that's responsible for their success. This is why people were so pleasantly surprised by how well Peter Jackson handled The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think I can speak for most fans when I say we were very relieved when the first movie came out because he didn't screw it up. Yes, yes, yes, the fans can quibble about decisions here and there, but everybody realized that there was no way to make a literal translation of Tolkien's dense books into movies. But Jackson understood and respected the books, and so was able to make changes that kept true to the good professor's vision, even when he had to depart from the story.

Battleship, however, is much more typical of Hollywood's treatment. They basically just kept the title and created a regular special-effects dominated aliens movie. Now, "battleship" the game, is hardly some high concept product, so there was a lot of room to work with. But it's not an alien themed game.

The key thing, I think, is to recognize that the heart of "Battleship" is the guess and outguess interplay and a movie that captured that dynamic might succeed. I think it would be possible to make a Monopoly movie -- but not  as a  remake of Wall Street.  No, the movie would need to highlight the wheeling and dealing of the game in the context of a cinematic treatment. I think of the way the musical Chess successfully captured the drama surrounding international chess matches during the Cold War to make an entertaining story.

Essentially, however, the classic Hasbro board games don't feature a strong in-game narrative that would translate well into a Hollywood style movie. Among the Hasbro game properties that DO have strong narrative potential would be Dungeons and Dragons, Diplomacy and even Axis & Allies, but none have the kind of wide public name recognition of Battleship or Monopoly and probably can't attract Hollywood interest.Some of the old AH titles like Monster Menace America might work.

I think Hasbro fundamentally misunderstood why the Transformers movies worked. The transformers are cool visual toys and the movies were able to  parlay that into a cool visual movie. Board games are more like books in that the action tends to be in the mind, not the eye.

I think Hasbro is barking up the wrong tree.

1 comment:

  1. Nate Culwell-KanarekJuly 17, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Dungeons and Dragons does have the public name recognition necessary for that kind of venture. In fact, a movie and a TV series by that name were already made, the former in 2000 and the latter in 1983-85. However, I personally doubt that the name could be translated into a successful blockbuster, not because of lack of recognition of the name but because of the negative perceptions surrounding the name for many Americans. D&D is a property that actually has rather spectacular potential as a movie property, as evidenced by the extensive line of books and computer games carrying that brand. D&D campaign settings like the Forgotten Realms were conceived expressly for the purpose of churning out endless storylines, which you would think would jive perfectly with Hollywood's love of sequels. I don't see it happening, though, because it's just considered too geeky to work. Just my view of course.