“What does the commercial failure of Battleship tell you?”
The ‘commercial failure’ (it made less than half of its expected gross and just barely covered its production costs) of this bloated, big screen board game adaptation teaches us something important: Hollywood is really dumb.
Not the most startling of revelations I’m sure, but perhaps if we start pointing out the flaws in movie studio logic, they’ll eventually learn something. We have one man to blame for both the conception and failure of Battleship at the box office: Michael Bay. This master of explosions and 2 second jump cuts changed the game with Transformers and most critics would argue that he’s turned big-budget action flicks into a spectacle of idiocy. Instead of featuring realistic characters, logical story arcs, and a consistent tone, Bay’s undeniably stylish visuals take the center stage while characters suffer to a point of cardboard-ness and racist stereotypes populate. Why does this hack filmmaker continue to receive work? Commercial success.
We all know that his films lack genuine quality and are far more style than substance, but this blonde-haired narcissist happens to have the midas touch. Not a single feature he’s shoved into print has failed at the box office and naturally contemporary studios took notice. Almost out of nowhere competing studios starting ignoring simple indy flicks to invest in old IPs and large explosions with the hope that western audiences would flock in droves. Enter: Battleship.
Battleship represents everything that is wrong with contemporary mainstream cinema. Conceptually speaking, Battleship is meant to be a modern interpretation of a player vs player board game in which participants select a location to launch missiles and attempt to sink enemy crafts. Unfortunately, Battleship takes a page (actually several) from Michael Bay’s playbook and clutters each frame with aliens, robots, and special effects. Liam Neeson is underutilized, Rihanna is featured so prominently that this would be considered her big break (had she any acting talent), antagonist motivations are pathetically weak, jump cuts ruin every sequence, dialogue is contrived, and the film’s message is muddled and simplistic. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would say that Michael Bay wrote, directed, and produced this boomfiesta.
So, if this film follows all of the commercially successful cues of Michael Bay, why is it considered to be a “commercial failure”? I’d like to think that the movie going public is starting to mature their taste in mainstream schlock. People trust Bay to deliver mindless – yet fun – films that absorb a couple hours of time, but usually are left feeling kinda hollow and unfulfilled upon their conclusion. The hope is that these overproduced, loud, and flashy action films may just be a trend in the cinematic landscape. Whether this is actually the case or just my unfulfilled wishes is yet to be seen.