With movie ideas like this, we’re sunk
On the Mark — By Craig Marks
The movie “Battleship,” starring Liam Neeson, opens this weekend. This is exciting news for all of us baby boomers who considered Battleship to be our seventh or eighth favorite game, behind Parcheesi and cussword hangman.
There was nothing terribly wrong with Battleship. It just didn’t float our boats, so to speak, and the problem wasn’t that it forced us to use math. Working with grids and coordinates was remedial mathematics compared to calculating Monopoly’s income tax or discovering the engineering flaw in our Mousetrap contraptions. (Heavy Boot plus Rickety Steps times Cheap Plastic equals One Escaped Rodent.)
It seems others rated Battleship higher. On the box of the 1967 version, which I ran across on eBay, is the stunning boast that it is “America’s All Time Favorite Game.” (So there, baseball!) The box shows a dad — looking dapper in a red shirt and white sweater vest — playing the game with his son. In the background are Mom and Sis doing the dishes. I’m not sure which one Neeson plays in the movie.
Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that Battleship began life as a game played on paper called “Broadsides, the Game of Naval Strategy,” and it was turned into a Milton Bradley board game in 1967. If you grew up in the late 1960s to early 1970s, you remember its commercials, which featured the plaintive cry, “You sank my battleship.” This was catchier than the parents’ cry of “Don’t leave those stupid pegs on the floor.”
To play the game, you and your opponent placed those pegs on grids (think prehistoric Excel spreadsheets) after secretly positioning your fleet. Then the players took turns throwing out coordinates, trying to guess where their opponent’s boats were located.
That joke was mandatory. Abbott and Costello had nothing on us Battleship players.
I’m guessing the dialogue in the movie “Battleship” will be equally stellar. The film, directed by Peter Berg, is in the grand tradition of toy spin-off films such as “Clue” and America’s All Time Favorite Movie About Cars That Are Robots, “Transformers.” If not for the “Transformers” franchise, there would be no “Battleship,” as I’m sure will be duly noted on Academy Awards night.
The toughest adversaries the “Battleship” crew must face are not metal aliens, despite what its trailers show. It’s “The Avengers,” which has proven you can have a summer blockbuster that is not an affront to your brain cells. The bar has been set high, and if “Battleship” can’t clear it, it may be remembered as “John Carter of the High Seas.”
Even if the movie is a hit, I doubt the Battleship game will be jumping off the shelves. The glory days of board games have passed, and nothing can be done to the old Battleship game to change that —not adding electronic sound effects or even taking the radical step of allowing women to drop their dishrags and play. That ship has sailed, I’m afraid, and no one is hunting it down.
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