Universal has a right to be worried about Battleship, which stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard and Rihanna

Driver’s EDitorial #59: After the somewhat dubious debut of the BATTLESHIP Super Bowl ad, many Americans started asking themselves the question that movie fans have been asking for a while; “why would they make a movie named after a board game that looks like a Transformers clone and have Rihanna star in it?”  Well, no one can answer that, but if you think Universal is confident in their $200 million investment, you’d be mistaken.  Recent decisions by the movie studio powerhouse suggests that Universal is sensing what we’ve known all along; BATTLESHIP is probably not going to be very successful. (watch the full trailer below)

Reports came out earlier yesterday that Universal was working on huge movie tie-ins with just about anyone that would listen.  Coke Zero, Cisco, Subway, Kraft, Nestle, Chevron, the USO and of course, the US Navy are all partners with Universal in promoting the film on the radio, online and on television (remember that Comcast is under the same NBC umbrella).  All total, this saves Universal about $50 million in advertising costs.  In other words, over the next few months, instead of seeing an ad for Coke Zero, you’ll see an ad for Coke Zero that will also push the movie.  This isn’t unusual at all for a studio and look no further than BMW and Paramount for their teaming up to promote MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL.  What is unusual is the extreme nature of the partnerships and the sheer number.  In theory, you could watch a 30 minute sitcom and see nothing but BATTLESHIP commercials.

Rihanna in Battleship

If that wasn’t enough, Universal is reportedly severing ties with Hasbro (the owners of such boardgames as Battleship, Clue, Monopoly, Ouija, among others) and to do so, they’re paying millions.  There are a few red flags to this news, the first being that Hollywood studios usually don’t pay lump-sum, million dollar settlements to not make movies.  But the writing is on the wall for Universal and it’s clear that BATTLESHIP has them nervous and now they’re avoiding making future flops films like MONOPOLY (with Ridley Scott directing) and OUIJA (with McG attached to direct).

Peter Berg on the set of Battleship

And who can blame them?  The executive who thought it would be a good idea to take the name of a classic board game and spend $200 million to make an alien-invasion film that looks and sounds exactly like TRANSFORMERS should be fired.  And why would they cast B-level stars like Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna and expect them to sell tickets?  Yes, Liam Neeson adds some class to the film, but I’m afraid he’s not going to be enough to make this successful.  Universal is behind every other studio when it comes to tentpoles and franchises and BATTLESHIP is another reason why.

Taylor Kitsch in Battleship

However, with all of this said; I have not seen the film, nor was I privy to the footage director Peter Berg showed to companies as he was out trying to sell the film.  It’s possible BATTLESHIP will be a fantastic film and will be a great way to pass a couple of hours.  But the lesson Universal (and all studios) need to learn is that taking brands/names people know and then twisting them to the point where they’re unrecognizable is not a recipe for success.  I hope BATTLESHIP proves me wrong, but right now, all signs point to another rough summer for Universal.

By Brad Sturdivant

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