Battleship opens this Friday in theaters around the country. The big budget film hopes to do the same kind of business at the box office that other blockbusters, like The Hunger Games and The Avengers, have already done this year. Unfortunately, the word out now for this “aliens attack a naval fleet” picture hasn’t been as good as it was for those other two aforementioned films.
However, what can be agreed upon by all is the source the film is based on — the classic Battleshipboard game, which scores of generations weaned themselves on in their youth. The fun guessing game which is played head-to-head, utilizing four grids (two for each player) as players secretly arrange their naval ships strategically on the grid, as the other player tries to guess where they are, one grid square by one grid square at a time, until they in essence “attack” their opponents ships. The first player to conquer and destroy all their opponents’ ships wins the game.
First released as a pad-and-pencil game by famed toy company Milton Bradley in 1943 and called Broadsides, the Game of Naval Strategy, Battleship was not known as the board game with two grid boards and pegs and miniature replicas of various naval ships of differing sizes until 1967, when Milton Bradley released it in that format. It became a smash hit, and kids of that generation and ones into the 1970s, had Battleship sharing space in their toy chests, along with other board games such as Clue, Monopoly, Stratego, and Mouse Trap. Saturday morning commercials touting the product gave the American culture the catchphrase “You Sank My Battleship!”
In 1977, an electronic version was released, simply titled Electronic Battleship, and although the format of the game was the same, the bells and whistles that got added to the battery-powered version was simulated sounds of bombs dropping from airplanes, and a colorful “explosion” which lit up when a player made a “hit” on their opponents ships. In the decades that followed, there have been many platforms of the game available for many home video game systems; variations of the game have been released for the old Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore Computers, Game Boy Advance, Super Nintendo, Playstation 2, the Kindle, and now there’s a movie tie-in edition for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS. Currently, mobile phones have access to the game also. And as a tie-in with the film, there’s new electronic version of the board game, the Deluxe Battleship – Movie Edition.
Ultimately, the Battleship film seems destined to be as campy and unmemorable as Midway, another vehicle which had campy success and also deals with a naval fleet (this time about World War II). Midway, which was released way back in 1976, also had a virtual who’s who of some A but mainly B-list actors as its cast (Charlton Heston, Erik Estrada, Pat Morita, and Glenn Ford among plenty others), similar to Battleship (although A-list actor Liam Neeson helms the ship) which has people like controversial R&B singer Rhianna, actor Taylor Kitsch, and model Brooklyn Decker. Directed by Peter Berg, best known for the TV series Friday Night Lights and already getting bad publicity via Rotten Tomatoes, Battleship looks to be the first clunker of the 2012 summer movie season.
So whether the film is worth seeing might be questionable at best, there’s no question that the appeal of the game of Battleship lives on in the pop cultural universe we reside in and probably will continue to, long after the theatrical release may or may not just be another footnote in a long line of movie adaptations based on classic games.
You can watch the classic 1975 Battleship “Opera” commercial at YouTube, and two other commercials embedded here below.