x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Will Battleship stay afloat at the box office?

The blockbuster Battleship is a film adaptation of a board game, but not since Clue bombed in 1985 has Tinseltown gambled on something with no apparent storyline.

Battleship steamed into cinemas overseas this week and arrives in the UAE today, giving international audiences the first chance to decide whether a board game-based movie is seaworthy.

The Hasbro Inc search-and-destroy game was once a way for kids to while away a summer afternoon. But with its big-screen debut, Battleship the movie has become a potential franchise, sporting Michael Bay-inspired special effects, aliens invading Earth, a bikini-model actress, the superstar Rihanna and, of course, lots of guns.

Whether the movie symbolises Hollywood's lack of new ideas or its brilliance in adapting old ones, Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures is betting big that it's the latter. With a reported production budget of US$200 million (Dh735m), observers say it will need to reap at least $500m at box offices worldwide to pay off.

Hollywood's love of the sequel, the prequel, the reboot and the adapted novel all originate from the same premise: moviegoers are more likely to buy a ticket if they are already familiar with the story.

But not since Clue bombed in 1985 has Tinseltown gambled on adapting a popular board game with no apparent storyline.

The idea of turning board games into movies has gained new traction, in part because of the huge success of Transformers, and to a lesser extent, G.I. Joe, which are both based on toys from the toymaker Hasbro Inc.

For Hasbro, the movie is a way to get a globally marketed boost for its games business, which the Sterne Agee analyst Margaret Whitfield called "stagnant" and lacking innovation. Turning that stagnation around is a goal of Brian Goldner, Hasbro's chief executive since 2008. He told investors in February: "We're going to reignite our games business."

If it succeeds, Battleship will be the advance guard of a whole fleet of planned adaptations of Hasbro games including Ouija, also being developed by Universal for release in 2013, as well as Risk and Candy Land, which are both in the works at Sony Corp. Stretch Armstrong, a movie based on the glutinous-armed toy from Hasbro, is set for a 2014 release by Relativity Media.

On paper, Battleship scores high on the checklist for blockbuster success: a hero in a life-or-death struggle against incomparable odds, a steamy love interest, a star-studded cast that includes Liam Neeson, and a whole lot of destruction and mayhem.

The movie also has "built-in appeal" with parents who feel nostalgic about the game and want to pass it on to their children, he says.

On the surface, little about Battleship the movie resembles the board game.

In the game, players call out letters and numbers that correspond to their opponents' grid, hoping to hit and sink a set of ships hidden there.

In the movie, alien ships burst out of their hiding places in the ocean and trap some battleships under a giant force field inside which the two sides must duke it out. The aliens appear to have weapons with distinctly peg-like shapes, along with some spinning metal balls of death known as "shredders", which are not part of the board game.

But Hasbro has that little wrinkle covered.

The company is releasing a new version of the game using cards that enable the wielder to wipe out a whole row or column of their opponents' pieces, offering kids a way to relive the experience of the movie at home.

* AP

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