As is often the case with traumatic events that occur on a national scale, few of us will forget where we were when the first trailer for the Battleship movie came out. Nobody could have predicted the bewildering blur of images and sounds that devastated our eyes and ears on that tragic day. America wasn’t ready for nonsense of that magnitude. And nearly two weeks later, we’re still trying to figure out what it all means.
One thing we have been able to determine from picking through the cinematic rubble is that Battleship is a colossal waste of a brand license. Apart from the fact that the movie is about battleships, there is nothing in the trailer that suggests any sort of resemblance to the classic board game that taught generations of Americans how to lie to their friends and family. Generically sinister-looking aliens have no place in a Battleship adaptation, and their peg-shaped bombs (which aren’t even the right color!) do little to convince us that they do.
None of this is to say that toys and board games can’t or shouldn’t provide great source material. Quite the contrary. If anything, we need more movies to be based on long-forgotten pieces of colorful plastic. They lovingly remind us of the old toys we played with as children while also lovingly reminding us to buy new versions of those old toys. The delicious blend of nostalgia and commerce that results is what film-making is all about.
While Battleship misses the opportunity to capitalize on its license, there are several movies out there that should have taken advantage of obvious opportunities for brand synergy.
Hugh Jackman’s upcoming robo-boxing movie Real Steel is a particularly striking example. About ten seconds into seeing the trailer for the first time, I thought to myself, “They’re making a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots movie? FINALLY!” But as the trailer progressed, it become increasingly obvious that there was no Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots tie-in. It’s just a movie about Hugh Jackman training some crappy robot to fight some other crappy robot. Who cares? We’ve been waiting for the Red Rocker and the Blue Bomber to come to life on the silver screen for almost fifty years, and then somebody goes and makes a fightin’ robots movie that has nothing to do with rocking ’em OR socking ’em? That’s just irresponsible. The movie would write itself; you could even make the Red Rocker a dirty Soviet to stoke America’s thirst for Ruski blood.
This isn’t the first time a movie like this has missed the boat (PUN VERY MUCH INTENDED). Here are six more examples of films that could have been so much better if they had been based on a classic toy or board game.
Movie: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Board game it should have been based on: Guess Who?
While this Sidney Poitier classic may have been perfectly timed to be a pivotal moment for race relations in 1960s America, it could not have been more poorly timed to take advantage of the boom in movie merchandising that would occur over the next several decades. If they had just waited until the 1980s, they could have capitalized on the best-selling guessing game Guess Who?, giving the film some of the thrilling, fast-paced strategy it sorely lacked. Imagine the incredibly dramatic climax of the film, when Spencer Tracy has finally narrowed the field down, asking an equally troubled Katherine Hepburn the only question left to ask: “Is he… black?” Oscars all around — and millions of dollars worth of board games sold.
Movie: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Toy it should have been based on: Barrel of Monkeys
Against all odds, Rise of the Planet of the Apes scored glowing reviews when it opened this weekend. But that praise could have been unanimous if only they had thought to incorporate this Milton Bradley classic. The movie in its current form is just so heavy-handed and serious. I mean, finding a cure for Alzheimer’s that ends up destroying the human race? So depressing! Instead, Dr. James Franco should be working on something fun, like monkey-linking technology. When the monkeys bust out of the giant barrel Franco keeps them in, they can’t be stopped… from eating all the ice cream in San Francisco! See? Way more enjoyable! This summer, nothing’s more fun than… A Barrel of Monkeys!
Movie: A Beautiful Mind
Board game it should have been based on: Pictionary
A Beautiful Mind won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 2001. But it was not the indisputable classic it could have been — in fact, it’s only the 66th best Best Picture of all time. The film’s main problem was its relatability, or lack thereof. A whole movie about math? BORING! Americans don’t care about some guy going schizo from trying to figure out the quadratic equation or whatever. With just a little tweaking, Russel Crowe’s character could have become one of the most endearing heroes in cinema history. Instead of a math genius, make him a PICTIONARY genius who goes schizo from trying to figure out the best way to draw a sailboat! Bet Ron Howard wishes he had a do-over now!
Board game it should have been based on: Mouse Trap
The Saw franchise has successfully capitalized on America’s love of all things torture for years. But who gets cut out of all the fun? That’s right: the kids. If they really wanted to make Saw accessible to moviegoers of all ages, they should have based it on Mouse Trap. Replace the icky-looking torture devices with bright, colorful torture devices, shrink the victims down to the size of miniature plastic mice, and send them through the gauntlet! Now that’s sadism the whole family can enjoy!
Movie: Step Up 3D
Toy it should have been based on: Skip-It
Now tell me: which one of those battles was more thrilling? The second one, obviously! Ever since the Skip-It took the world by storm in the 90s, anybody who has tried to dance without one has looked like an out-of-touch loser idiot moron. Skip-It 3D would have been the coolest movie of all-time, and it would have actually taken advantage of the 3D technology Step Up 3D totally wasted. Imagine dozens of Skip-Its flying in and out of the theater non-stop for 90 minutes. You might get whiplash, but at least you’d also get a great theatergoing experience!
Movie: Eyes Wide Shut
Board game it should have been based on: Twister
The main complaints directed at Stanley Kubrick’s last film centered around how long, slow, and boring it was. I haven’t seen it (too long, slow, and boring for my tastes), but I think it’s obvious what the solution is: Twister! If they’re gonna be hanging out on the floor so much anyway, they might as well have some fun with it. Swap out that creepy secret orgy society for a couples game night that inevitably turns into a creepy secret orgy society anyway. The audience might actually stay awake for the whole thing! Even better: package Venetian masks with special editions of the game. Maybe if Kubrick had thought to do that, he could have really made a name for himself.